'Weight' is my first proper introduction to Jeanette Winterson (I think I've read a short story before) which is long overdue. I've always enjoyed reading or listening to her being interviewed, and genuinely have no idea why I've avoided her books for so long. It's also the first of the myth series I've read where I wasn't specifically interested in the story beforehand - the ones I've read have generally been picked up because I'm interested in the myth, the author has been more or less irrelevant.
I think because of this I hadn't really considered how much of a personal choice each myth is to it's author. My interest in the ones I'd read made them seem like obvious choices for anyone to take on, but the story of Atlas is one that I wasn't especially familiar with, or that had any particular resonance. It does for Winterson though, who knew immediately that this was the myth she wanted to retell, and has done so in a way that incorporates autobiography from time to time.
Like 'The Penelopiad' this is a short book, something that can easily be read in an afternoon, but which has more in it than seems possible for the word count. The retelling of the familiar bits - the story of Atlas, and Heracles, who takes on his burden in return for a job he needs doing, before tricking Atlas into taking the world back onto his shoulders again before he's quite ready - are earthy and funny. Bawdy, even, but all the time there's the question why?
Why accept limits, why accept these tasks, why accept this punishment, why not walk away? For Winterson personally there's also the question of why Atlas. The ending isn't traditional, or what I might have expected but it made me happy.
I'm torn here about giving the ending away, the book's been out for years so spoilers don't seem unreasonable, and yet for once I feel that giving away the ending would spoil things, at least for the next reader like me.
Perhaps better just to say that I really loved this book, and everything about it, and that I'm really looking forward to reading more Winterson.