Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble


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by Ryan Knighton

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On his 18th birthday, Ryan Knighton was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a congenital, progressive disease marked by night-blindness, tunnel vision and, eventually, total blindness. In this penetrating, nervy memoir, which ricochets between meditation and black comedy, Knighton tells the story of his fifteen-year descent into blindness while incidentally


On his 18th birthday, Ryan Knighton was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a congenital, progressive disease marked by night-blindness, tunnel vision and, eventually, total blindness. In this penetrating, nervy memoir, which ricochets between meditation and black comedy, Knighton tells the story of his fifteen-year descent into blindness while incidentally revealing the world of the sighted in all its phenomenal peculiarity. Knighton learns to drive while unseeing; has his first significant relationship—with a deaf woman; navigates the punk rock scene and men's washrooms; learns to use a cane; and tries to pass for seeing while teaching English to children in Korea. Stumbling literally and emotionally into darkness, into love, into couch-shopping at Ikea, into adulthood, and into truce if not acceptance of his identity as a blind man, his writerly self uses his disability to provide a window onto the human condition. His experience of blindness offers unexpected insights into sight and the other senses, culture, identity, language, our fears and fantasies. Cockeyed is not a conventional confessional. Knighton is powerful and irreverent in words and thought and impatient with the preciousness we've come to expect from books on disability. Readers will find it hard to put down this wild ride around their everyday world with a wicked, smart, blind guide at the wheel.

Editorial Reviews

... Exceptional . . . Cockeyed gleefully plays up the slapstick of his situation but it's still an eye-opening account.
Sunday Telegraph (UK)
... Unparalleled user's guide to blindness that will benefit the sighted as much as the sightless
Vogue (UK)
... Unexpectedly and frequently funny...and his total lack of self pity makes this book an enlightening and enjoyable read.
Times (UK)
... Engaging, often moving...This is a thoughtful and likeable book. It is, most certainly, an eye-opener.
Rain Taxi Review of Books
"Knighton's honest and sarcastic style enable him to balance the humor of pathos with the burn of poignancy . . . "
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Knighton's 18th birthday is spoiled when an optometrist diagnoses him with retinits pigmentosa, a progressive eye disease that leads to blindness. In this surprisingly humorous memoir, he discusses his initial denial and eventual acceptance of the condition.

Publishers Weekly
Knighton, who teaches at Capilano College in Vancouver, started going blind in his teens, and in this hilarious and unsentimental yet moving memoir, he tells what it was like to lose his eyesight. He was born in the early 1970s, grew up in British Columbia and by 1987 was showing signs of poor vision. He began losing his sight early enough that the time frames of his coming-of-age and his coming-of-blindness overlap. Milestones such as his first driving experiences and his first relationships with girls, which would have been ordinary for other teenagers, were anything but for him. As he moved into adulthood, he also moved further into sightlessness, yet he turns the story into something so bracing that it reads like a travelogue-you can't wait to know where he's going next, whether it's to attend college in Vancouver, teach English in South Korea or get married. Wit can be a weapon, but can also be a kind of walking stick; being so gifted clearly guided Knighton long before anything began to happen to his eyes. Luckily for his readers, he was also gifted with a different kind of care and clear-sightedness, never stumbling into the maudlin. His book is an invitation to take a journey that no reader should refuse, to see life through another lens. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Intense personal reflections on how it feels to come of age and to go blind at the same time. Canadian Knighton was 18 when diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable degenerative condition leading to total blindness. Today, some 15 years later, he is a poet, essayist, journalist and teacher (Literature and Writing/Capilano College, Vancouver) with about one percent of a functional retina remaining (the characteristic "tunnel vision" of his affliction has nearly passed). His memoir is one of initial rejection of his diagnosis, then stubborn resistance to the obvious deterioration of his vision and, eventually, acceptance not only of his "blinding" but its effect on the people he cares most about: his wife, Tracy, his family and his friends. The author doesn't do a lot of wallowing; the narrative is fast-paced laced with a humor and irony that give it edge. Finally learning to use a blind person's cane, for example, becomes a key transition point as Knighton soon amazes himself with the novel possibilities of "seeing" via the end of a stick. And in one instance, he unwittingly "stares" at a woman in a bar who becomes annoyed enough to approach him and complain, thus setting up an evening of near triumph-not only does he pass for a guy who can see, he actually picks her up, but then bungles the tryst. The pathos of the apparent suicide of his younger brother triggers a final acceptance of the author's condition; his marriage follows shortly, wherein he finds that allowing and trusting Tracy to become "my eyes" has completed the passage. Engaging and insightful, literally shedding light on a dark and misunderstood condition.

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Read an Excerpt

You might think an appetite for something called a night club would be an bad idea for someone called night blind. You would be right. Equally wise would be me joining a gun club. Nevertheless, to this day I owe a debt to punk rock. Its culture helped me become as blind as I was, but couldn't admit. My apprenticeship into the club scene had numerous dangers and disadvantages, although most were silly. In my time I have argued with empty bar stools, talked to pillars, knocked down waitresses, bounced off bouncers, pissed between urinals, drunk other people's beers and hit on shadows.

Even though I routinely tumbled down stairs, and plummeted off stages, never, not once, did it convince me to perhaps take up a white cane. Bullshit, I thought. I'm not that night blind. I'm just drunk. When the colored strobes and spotlights did their job, pulsing and spinning with the music, then I was more or less able to see enough. Step off the dance floor into the murky bar, that was a bit of a problem. Slow songs, too. They always dropped the lights for slow songs, and left me paralyzed wherever I happened to be. For a moment, anyway. Then like a gimpy Sid Vicious I'd careen off the dance floor, knocking people over instead of scooting around them politely. Sure I was a poser, not nearly close to hardcore, but blindness gave an authenticity to my recklessness when I ignored every social propriety our eyes manage. That was the best thing about the scene.

The culture camouflaged my inability to cooperate with bodies around me. In growing blindness I became, oddly enough, safer and more like the scenesters around me than I was like my peers out on the street or at school. Booze helped. Everybody was loaded, knackered, legless, gassed, goofed and every other word for blind drunk. Bumping into people was acceptable, even expected, and I was practiced at bashing into folks on a regular basis, whether I was in my cups or just spilling them. Confusion and disorientation ruled the room, too, and that pretty much described my sober state. Above all, though, I blended with ease and advantage on the dance floor. I loved to slam. What blind person doesn't?

Meet the Author

Ryan Knighton teaches contemporary literature and creative writing at Capilano College in Vancouver, British Columbia, and served for two years as editor of the literary magazine The Capilano Review. The author of a book of poetry and co-author of a collection of short fiction, Knighton has also published widely as a journalist and essayist. He has also produced, written and performed radio monologues and documentaries about blindness for the CBC.

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