4 July 2009

Timothy O’Grady, Steve Pyke, I Could Read the Sky, 1997

This book has been celebrated as something of a small Irish cultural event in and of itself, looking at the lives of Irish manual labourers in England. It takes the form of a old man looking back at his life, his family and the people he knew while going through decades of low-paid work in a country he feels alienated from. Noticeably absent are any adventures he may have had, instead focussing on the more mundane imagery of the unskilled jobs he’s done, his friends and the all-pervasive music they all play: those same hands that dig graves and tunnels and build roads also play flutes and accordions, something that is one of the defining points of the book. The photography of Steve Pyke is as important as the words, such is Pyke’s ability to perfectly capture Irishness when set in this context. The right music for this book is of course the album of the same name by Iarla Ó’Lionáird, which was also the soundtrack to the film. A superb and memorably haunting work.  PY

  I Could Read the Sky won the 1998 Encore Award.


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