Saturday, 7 November 2009

Weight (Jeanette Winterson)

--The blurb--
"In ancient Greek mythology, Atlas, a member of the original race of gods called Titans, leads a rebellion against the new deities, the Olympians. With her typical wit and verve, Winterson brings Atlas into the 21st century."

--The review--
Jeanette Winterson is well-known for making fairly big and public splashes, both in terms of her literary success and in terms of her personal life. It is obvious why she is able to capture the interest of the general public and its literati just from the first few pages of Weight, even for those who have never before read any Winterson work. This novella is well-written, poetic (yet lucid), surprisingly modern, arresting, and intelligent. Winterson says that as soon as she was asked to write an instalment of the Canongate Myths series, she knew 'even before hanging up the phone' that Atlas and Heracles would be her choice.

It is therefore mystifying, then, to find that even despite the above characteristics, the end result is not better. It is an enjoyable and quick read, to be sure, but it is ultimately forgettable (thankfully its length does not preclude multiple readings so that this may be tempered). It is equally unfortunate for Winterson that her underlying thread in the novella of "wanting to tell the story again" seems contrived and unnecessary; it doesn't really wash. Consequently, then, this is unlikely to be one of Winterson's most enduring works, even if it does sit well in the company of the other titles in the Canongate Myths series (and I say this even despite the fact that Ali Smith's and Margaret Atwood's respective contributions to the series are more memorable). I can also appreciate how one's liking of the book may mature with multiple readings.

This Winterson attempt at modernising myth may appeal to younger readers who are seeking their first introduction to the realms of ancient legend, but equally they may be put off. I would encourage the beginning seekers to try something else instead, and perhaps save this for another time.

Other works by Jeanette Winterson
Orange Are Not The Only Fruit (1985)
Sexing The Cherry (1989)
The World and Other Places (1998)

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