Weight – Jeanette Winterson
October 10, 2009 § 6 Comments
I didn’t think that I’d be picking up another one of Jeanette Winterson’s books up so soon after PowerBook. I was simply screening the library the other day, and this book just screamed at me, begging to be brought home and loved. So that’s what I did.
Weight is the retelling of the story of Atlas and Heracles. Or rather, the myth that surrounds the two strongest men in the world. Atlas carries the entire Cosmos (or Kosmos) on his back for all eternity, and Heracles, well, he’s Hercules!
Having always been interested in myths and stories of ancient times, I found this book a timely reminder of all things I love. I love the mystical magic that shrouds the characters of these myths. I love the complexities of their egos and their relationships with each other. I love how their stories were told from such a long time ago, but yet are relevant in some form or other to us in this time and age.
Stories never grow old. They just need to be re-told.
Winterson focused on a theme that is rarely associated with these two strong mythical figures. She drew on, perhaps, some of her own personal experiences, and painted a whole new light to how ancient characters might be looked at and perceived. Atlas went to war with the gods, and so was punished to hold the whole world on his back. He was strong, defiant, unruly. Heracles was the half-human, half-god son of Zeus. He was driven to madness by Hera, killed his own children, and became a blood-lusting murderer.
But in Weight, we get to see the other side to them. Winterson focuses on how these men, though uncouth they may be, might actually be lonely. As Atlas carries the entire universe on his back, he’s not only punished, but he is also sent to exile. He is alone, as he carries a burden that is not his own. As Heracles kills without so much as a blink of an eye, he is also a man who is unable to open his heart, unable to accept people into his dark world.
These men are men with a huge burden on their shoulders. One that is physically and mentally intolerable. But they carry it anyway.
Winterson writes beautifully. Weight was written like poetry. Subtle and touching. The words felt like they required no effort. It was like following the flow of a stream, rolling over stone and rock. It was like running in a great field of lavendar with the wind in your hair. It was like breathing in salty air as the sound of breaking waves soothed your mind.
Winterson took me by the hand and brought me some place other than the present. It was that beautiful.
Weight is part of The Myths Series. There are other books by other authors that dwell on the retelling of myths and stories of ancient times. I’m now keen on reading the others in the series.