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I Could Read the Sky


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A new edition of the 1997 classic novel about an Irishman in London, told through words and photos

About the Author

Timothy O’Grady was born in Chicago and has lived in Ireland, London, Spain and Poland. He is the author of four works of non-fiction and three novels. His novel Motherland won the David Higham award for the best first novel in 1989. His novel I Could Read the Sky, a collaboration with photographer Steve Pyke, won the Encore Award for best second novel of 1997. I Could Read the Sky was filmed and also travelled as a stage show. His most recent novel is Light, published in 2004.

In the 1970s, Steve Pyke was a punk rocker with an itch to do something more singular. He borrowed a friend's camera and since that time has photographed for every major magazine. His work has been exhibited worldwide and is held in many international permanent collections.


'A masterpiece' Robert Macfarlane 'Twenty-odd years on it is somehow even more luminous and richly satisfying than the first time out ... I hope thousands of new readers find themselves keeping a copy under the pillow, unable to let it out of their sight even for the hours of darkness' Annie Proulx ‘I Could Read the Sky (Unbound) has just been reissued. I urge you to behold the alchemy between Timothy O’Grady’s story and Steve Pyke’s photographs; no book on the Irish emigrant experience has moved me more. O'Grady does not just respond to Pyke's stark, beautiful photographs: he gives voice to thousands' Louise Kennedy 'The experience of Irish emigration uniquely and powerfully illuminated' Mark Knopfler 'It reminds us of a great and unforgivable truth – our cities are built on the loneliness of migrant workers, and their great sadness persists down the generations' Kevin Barry 'What Pyke and O'Grady have done is read out imagination' Dermot Healy 'If the words tell the story of the voiceless, the bleak lovely photographs show their faces. Fiction rarely gets as close to the messy, glorious truth as do memories and photographs. This rare novel dares to use both' Charlotte Mendelson, TLS 'A lament for the cruelty of diaspora strained throush such pure, understated language you're surprised the words themselves are not weeping on the page' Bloomsbury Review 'A fine, evocative, engaging act of storytelling that captures the essence of a displaced life for Irish exiles ... a work of literary genius' Gerry Adams 'Supple, unshowy, beautiful writing ... What is really marvellous is O’Grady’s ability to return to the well of familiar images of Irish emigration while being so utterly devoid of cliche ... People have been trying to read the sky for a long time. Rare masterpieces like this help us do it' Irish Times 'Timothy O'Grady captures the collegiality, the acceptance of a common fate, that sustained communities, especially all male communities' Irish Examiner ‘I Could Read the Sky pays tribute to the voiceless and overlooked, and so addresses the exile in all of us' TLS 'Animated by small epiphanies' TLS 'The relics of (these) lives resurface in the murk of memory and find their clearest depiction in Pyke's evocative black-and-white photographs.' TLS

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