“Weight” is Jeanette Winterson’s straightforward retelling of the classic story of Atlas, who carried the world on his shoulders, and Heracles, the half-god hero, from Greek mythology. She infuses her protagonists with human flaws and foibles. Heracles is depicted as noxiously egocentric, driven purely by his own desires; Atlas is blinded by his own self-importance; both learn humility as their tales intertwine, their transformations complete by tales’ end.
Winterson bejewels the familiar narrative with autobiographical and universal contextualisation and understanding, underlining that the weight we carry in our daily lives is often unnecessary; these burdens are things we deem important, but actually things only matter — have “weight” — when we ascribe significance. We can lead happier lives if we learn to distinguish between what actually matters and what doesn’t.
As eminently readable as one would expect, but with Winterson’s name attached, I was hoping for a more subversive reimagining.
Number Of Pages: 176
Published: 27th June 2018
Publisher: A&U Canongate
In Frankisstein Jeanette Winterson explores the repercussions of artificial intelligence and cybernetics in relation to transsexuality and transhumanism. Victor Stein, the charismatic and lauded professor, envisions a bodyless utopia in which gender, race and sexuality are meaningless. He points to Ry Shelley — a young transgender doctor, and his lover — as an example of what the future holds: “You aligned your physical reality with your mental impression of yourself,” Stein says. “Wouldn’t it be good if we could all do that?” This novel is Winterson’s evocative meditation on that question.
Frankisstein is entertaining and thought-provoking, full of moments of absurdity, hilarity and profundity. But these moments never quite gelled into a seamless narrative that totally hooked me. The book dances between a present day fictional cast and historical figures of yore, Mary Shelley most prominent of all, although Lord Byron, Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace also feature, reminding readers that ideas of the past continue to impact the present and future. Winterson’s depiction of Mary Shelley’s life, pockmarked with tragedy and loss, is touchingly evoked, and stands in great contrast to the flamboyancy of the present day cast; particularly Ron Lord, a Welsh sex-bot salesman, who provides some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments.
Winterson’s reimagining of Frankenstein is a clever hybrid of historical and speculative fiction. It’s made me want to re-read Mary Shelley’s book —and indeed read more about her life — and return to Frankisstein with this knowledge in the forefront of my mind. The sheer scope of it, and the ideas for the future it presents, make it worth a second read. I think your enjoyment of it might depend on your familiarity with the text if pays homage to. But even then, for me, it wasn’t quite as dazzling as the sum of its parts.
Format: Paperback / softback
Imprint: Jonathan Cape Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 9-May-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom