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Summary and book reviews of Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton

Cockeyed

A Memoir

by Ryan Knighton

Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton X
Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton
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  • First Published:
    May 2006, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 288 pages

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Book Summary

This irreverent, tragicomic, politically incorrect, astoundingly articulate memoir about going blind – and growing up.

This irreverent, tragicomic, politically incorrect, astoundingly articulate memoir about going blind–and growing up—illuminates not just the author's reality, but the reader's.

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.

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.

Pontiac Rex

Not seeing something, not seeing an indication of
something, does not lead automatically to the conclusion
that there is nothing.

—Hans Blix, The Guardian, June 2003

Unbeknownst to my family, my physician, or the motor vehicle branch, by the age of seventeen, I was going blind behind the wheel of my father's 1982 Pontiac Acadian. Feel free to shudder. Other soon-to-be-blind people are on the road today enjoying a similar story, only they've still got some damage to do. Maybe you'll meet one of them at an intersection.

Driving beckoned me the moment I turned sixteen, but my parents thought I'd benefit first from a driver's education course. Or two. Maybe three. I was that hopeless. Not much of what I learned remains in my brain, but I do remember my teacher, a greasy-haired man who insisted I call him Buddy.

For several months, Buddy picked me up once a week in his school's red Ford Taurus. The car was equipped with an extra brake on ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A wickedly funny, occasionally angry, book that is likely to give you a totally different perspective on disabilities in general, and blindness in particular...continued

Full Review (212 words).

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Media Reviews

Tucson Citizen
The narrative is powerful and irreverent, and readers will find it impossible to put down

Entertainment Weekly
Those of us in the sighted world may have walked past a blind person and asked, "How, exactly, do they do it?" Knighton, a creative-writing teacher whose talent shines on every page of this feisty, bittersweet memoir, both answers that question and shrugs it off as he describes his 15-year descent into darkness… it's his penchant for disdaining pity and shame that makes this such a compelling, sturdy read. Grade A.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review....a journey that no reader should refuse, to see life through another lens.

Entertainment Weekly
Knighton's talent shines on every page of this feisty, bittersweet memoir... a compelling, sturdy read.

Kirkus Reviews
Engaging and insightful, literally shedding light on a dark and misunderstood condition.

Reader Reviews

Nany Gordon

I loved this book!
This was a very enlightening book. The author writes about his experience going from seeing to blind as a teenager. He describes driving (something he shouldn't have been doing -- but he was still unaware of how serious his problem was) & ending up ...   Read More

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