New York State Writers Institute - Timothy O'Grady

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Steve Pyke (l) & Timothy O'Grady (r)

Timothy O'Grady & Steve Pyke

irishlog6.JPG 34.4 KMarch 9, 1999 (Tuesday) at 8:00 p.m.
Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
University at Albany, Uptown Campus

Author Timothy O'Grady reads from his work with a slide presentation by British photographer Steve Pyke of his photos that appear in O'Grady's novel I Could Read the Sky

Timothy O'Grady is the author of the prize-winning novel Motherland and co-author with Kenneth Griffith of Curious Journey: An Oral History of Irelands's Unfinished Revolution.

His most recent work, I Could Read the Sky is a collaboration, in the shape of a lyrical novel, between writer Timothy O'Grady and photographer Steve Pyke (pictured in photo on left). Pyke's photographs--portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes--enhance the story of an Irish migrant worker who leaves Ireland for the promise of a better life in England. It tells the story of a his coming of age in the middle years of this century. Now at its end, he finds himself alone, struggling to make sense of a life of dislocation and loss. He remembers his childhood in the west of Ireland and his decades of bewildered exile in the factories, potato fields and on the building sites of England. He is haunted by the faces of the family he left behind, and by the land that is still within him. He remembers the country and the seascapes, the bars and the boxing booths, the music he played and the woman he loved. In the books preface John Berger describes the synergism of the text and images: "The photographs are a reminder of everything which is beyond the power of words. . .And the words recall what can never be made visible in any photograph."

The threnody of his days is also a succession of pictures and in their counterpoint - vivid, sensuous text and stark, harrowing, sometimes lovely images - I Could Read the Sky becomes a distillation of the experience of Irish emigration.

O'Grady was born and raised in Chicago and has spent many years living in Donegal and Dublin. He currently lives in London.

Steve Pyke is one of the most acclaimed photographers working in Britain today. His work has been exhibited internationally and is featured regularly in The Guardian and Daily Telegraph.

What I could do. I could mend nets. Thatch a roof
Build stairs. Make a basket from reeds.
Splint the leg of a cow. Cut turf. Build a wall.
Go three rounds with Joe in the ring
Da put up in the barn.
I could dance sets. Read the sky.

Make a barrel for mackerel. Mend roads.
Make a boat. Stuff a saddle. Put a wheel on a cart. Strike a deal.
Make a field. Work the swarth
turner, the flout and the thresher.
I could read the sea. Shoot straight. Make a shoe.
Shear sheep. Remember poems. Set potatoes.
Plough and harrow. Read the wind. Tend bees.
Bind wyndes. Make a coffin. Take a drink.
I could frighten you with stories ...

"As in Frank McCourt's much acclaimed Angela's Ashes, O'Grady's novel is imbued with humor, lightening its load of suffering with laughter--and while pulling at the heart's string, a song of hope emerges." - Suzan Sherman, Bomb on I Could Read the Sky

"I would nominate I Could Read the Sky by Timothy O'Grady with photographs by Steve Pyke as my book of 1997. It is a wonder of a book which reads like poetry and forces you to speak some sentences aloud, tripping off your tongue as they and the photos grip your heart." - Gerry Adams, Dublin Sunday Tribune

"Like the writers he admires, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison, O'Grady's art is firmly rooted in a sense of identity explored through the continuities of the narrated past and its imaginative legacy. Exuberant, erudite, his voice deserves to last." - Susannah Herbert, Harpers and Queen on Motherland

". . .audacious, demand tour de force of a first novel." - Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post Book World on Motherland

Additional events with Timothy O'Grady and Steve Pyke:

March 9, 1:00 p.m. , Recital Hall - "Curious Journey," a film history on Irish freedom fighters. Banned in Great Britain. Timothy O'Grady, co-author of the screenplay, will be present for the viewing and discussion.

March 9, 3:30 p.m., Recital Hall - Master Class in Photography with Steve Pyke, one of Europe's most admired photographers.

March 16, Exhibition Opening, Mezzanine Gallery - Images of Ireland from I Could Read the Sky, by photographer Steve Pyke.

Contact Kelli Wondra, Center for Arts and Humanities, 442-4207, for additional information on these events.