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This lyrically crafted novel is a great collaboration between O'Grady and photographer Steve Pyke. They collectively create a visual journey of a musical Irishman, his journey from one location to another, looking for work and the love of his life. O'Grady's begins his novel with a description of the protagonist's life back at home as a child:
"This room is dark, as dark as it ever gets - the hour before dawn in winter. I have sounds and pictures but they flit and crash before I can get them..."
For me, it is a metaphor of not been able to recreate the places and the people he left behind as a result of his journey.
O'Grady ends his novel with a similar narrative:
"In the room now a breeze comes in through the window and on it there is the smell of spring. Downstairs the girl turns on her radio... There is a time after long work when you can look for strength and there is nothing there....
In the morning light I let go."
In between, we learn about his journey, his recollection of Irish landscapes, the places left behind, the music he played and his love. But this is not just a mere description of a nostalgic mental journey of an Irishman in exile. This can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone.
Reading this novel is like watching a visually crafted documentary embedded with voice and music that we can see and hear.
I'm glad that I met O'Grady and read his novel as my introduction to modern Irish novelists. But this novel had another positive effect on me. When I met O'Grady I was writing a novel about my own dislocation. This novel inspired me to look at my private journey again and again, and continue my writing in exile!
I recommend this book to anyone interested in the beauty and tragic of moving from one place to another.
Amazingly, requires very little interest in Ireland or the Irish - O'Grady is from Chicago anyway and this book is more about experiences of all mankind. His crystalline narrative is hardly bound by ethnicity.
Extraordinary and inspiring new use of the verb, can. If you read poetry, you couldn't regret buying this experimental novel.
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