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Cockeyed: A Memoir of Blindness

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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 revealing 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.


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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 revealing 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.

30 review for Cockeyed: A Memoir of Blindness

  1. 4 out of 5

    Faye

    When Ryan Knighton was 18 and I was 14, we both worked at the same restaurant in Suburbia. He and the owner teased me their fair share and I loved it. When I saw Cockeyed on the Canada Reads 2012 list , I thought, hey, is this that, Ryan? Well, it is! Reading this was like a one-sided reunion. While for most people this is a "book about a blind guy", albeit a funny one, this was for me a life after Langley coming of age. When he talks about losing his shoe at a concert in Vancouver, I'm thinking, When Ryan Knighton was 18 and I was 14, we both worked at the same restaurant in Suburbia. He and the owner teased me their fair share and I loved it. When I saw Cockeyed on the Canada Reads 2012 list , I thought, hey, is this that, Ryan? Well, it is! Reading this was like a one-sided reunion. While for most people this is a "book about a blind guy", albeit a funny one, this was for me a life after Langley coming of age. When he talks about losing his shoe at a concert in Vancouver, I'm thinking, "hey, I remember where I was when Lush played the Commodore!" And on and on it went. We didn't keep in touch after that summer we worked together (I was 14, remember?) but I can hardly believe our paths didn't cross. We drank at the same pub (not while I was 14) and bought cheese at the same deli. 20 years ago Ryan was sharp, witty, poetic and insightful. This book says he still is. And it's worth reading even if he didn't intentionally mix hollandaise into the ash tray while you slaved in the dish pit way back when. Don't ask me, ask the CBC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I found this memoir in the biographies section of an annual used book fair held in a local school. It sounded interesting to me because I don't know much about blindness or being blind and the cover promised that this would be a humorous account. What I found, however, was one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. Ryan Knighton writes about how he began to lose his eyesight, how it affected his life and relationships and how he came to eventually accept his abilities. What I found part I found this memoir in the biographies section of an annual used book fair held in a local school. It sounded interesting to me because I don't know much about blindness or being blind and the cover promised that this would be a humorous account. What I found, however, was one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. Ryan Knighton writes about how he began to lose his eyesight, how it affected his life and relationships and how he came to eventually accept his abilities. What I found particularly wonderful about this book was that it's not really a story about blindness but more a story of the life of a blind man. While Knighton's degenerating eye sight is central to the story, it often doesn't seem to be the most important bit. The experiences he's had, the people he's lost and his relationship with the people and world that surrounds him are also defining aspects of his life. Who doesn't share those same fundamentals? This book was everything it should be: inspiring (without pity), interesting, heart-warming and touching, enlightening and, most importantly, really quite funny. I'd recommend it to anyone looking to read a very human story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I really really loved this book! Partly because I could totally relate due to the fact that my daughter is very visually impaired. It was great to read about how he dealt with his blindness and how he didn't let it get in the way of success. It really showed how just because someone is blind, doesn't mean that the person can't lead an amazing life... i.e. great job, friends, marriage...etc. Even if those things are more difficult for the person to achieve. The world needs to know that just becau I really really loved this book! Partly because I could totally relate due to the fact that my daughter is very visually impaired. It was great to read about how he dealt with his blindness and how he didn't let it get in the way of success. It really showed how just because someone is blind, doesn't mean that the person can't lead an amazing life... i.e. great job, friends, marriage...etc. Even if those things are more difficult for the person to achieve. The world needs to know that just because someone has an impairment doens't mean their life will be anything less and that they can't be "normal". This book brought me to tears often and made me laugh out loud. I really appriciate Ryan Knighton for writing it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Saski

    I first got glasses when I turned eight, … and changed the lens every six months for years. No one said anything, but I knew I was going blind. I read every children’s book I could find on blind people, fiction and non-fiction. When my eyes finally stabilized in my twenties, I was almost disappointed. I had prepared my whole life for blindness and now it wasn’t happening. For a while I felt lost. This book on blindness is the first one I have read since that time. I never imagined partial sight. I first got glasses when I turned eight, … and changed the lens every six months for years. No one said anything, but I knew I was going blind. I read every children’s book I could find on blind people, fiction and non-fiction. When my eyes finally stabilized in my twenties, I was almost disappointed. I had prepared my whole life for blindness and now it wasn’t happening. For a while I felt lost. This book on blindness is the first one I have read since that time. I never imagined partial sight. For me it had to be all (read 'correctable') or nothing. It frightened me more than blindness, and Knighton’s eloquent description didn’t alleviate that fear. My sight stable for decades, is in decline again. This book, so well written, did not comfort me as the books of my youth did. Quotes that caught my eye It’s easy to lose a cane. It’s as easy as losing a pair of glasses or looking through the glasses on your nose and wondering where you could have left them this time. We think we are seeing life as it happens, but pictures are missing. Moments disappear between the stills and make up our unwitnessed lives. To see is to miss things. Loss is always with us. Seeing also takes time. Light travels at its pace, as do the signals from our retinas, passing from cells to nerves, and then, once within the brain, images are made. We move among them. But what we’ve seen has already happened out there, barely a moment ago, as a past we live within. The world we see is always gone.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Man loses sight, drives car off road.. Lives to tell story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Kondziolka

    For my profession I work with the blind and sometimes when my students come in for services they have to be reprogrammed to realize all the ways they can be independent and not to be ashamed of their blindness. So whenever reading books written by blind authors I am always scared of their perspective and that I may feel upset for them because before writing their book they haven’t been enlightened to how independent they can be and how rewarding their life can be and how life doesn’t have to evo For my profession I work with the blind and sometimes when my students come in for services they have to be reprogrammed to realize all the ways they can be independent and not to be ashamed of their blindness. So whenever reading books written by blind authors I am always scared of their perspective and that I may feel upset for them because before writing their book they haven’t been enlightened to how independent they can be and how rewarding their life can be and how life doesn’t have to evolve around their blindness. This book did not make me feel this way at all. This author and his memoir were great and empowering. He reflected on things that effected him as he was coping with becoming blind and just life things as someone travels from childhood, adolescence, adult and beyond. I thought the author had great powerful ways of explaining many situations blindness related and not just because he looks through things in an authors mindset and view. Some of these stories I know I will use as examples as I am teaching and some of the stories will just sit in my subconscious for life. I throughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    An utterly fantastic book. Canadian Ryan Knighton has been growing blind since his teens, and at the time of this book's publication (2006) he was approximately 33 and had 1% of his sight left. He writes with a clear, approachable style and with a great sense of both perspective and humor. Like some of the other books I've read about young men going blind, Ryan was pretty fiercely independent and didn't use a cane during the early stages of his visual degeneration. However, he did discover punk An utterly fantastic book. Canadian Ryan Knighton has been growing blind since his teens, and at the time of this book's publication (2006) he was approximately 33 and had 1% of his sight left. He writes with a clear, approachable style and with a great sense of both perspective and humor. Like some of the other books I've read about young men going blind, Ryan was pretty fiercely independent and didn't use a cane during the early stages of his visual degeneration. However, he did discover punk music clubs and for a time really enjoyed the mosh-pit atmosphere -- because where else could a blind guy bang into people and not stand out? Knighton seems to live full-tilt, admitting he fears boredom and is willing to weather embarrassment in public. ["Blindness, no matter how traumatizing, is a constant state of slapstick. Sometimes the innocent have to go down with me."] He's a wonderful storyteller, and I especially enjoyed his account of the apology by a couple of New Orleans would-be muggers, and his laugh-out-loud account of the test fire drill (for insurance company purposes) at an adult blind camp he attended. Interwoven with the humor are some incredibly poignant and thoughtful sections as well, which simply puts some meat on the bones of this surprisingly fun, quirky read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    I read this under the pretense that it was unsentimental and hilarious, as it says on the back. Well, it lied. I thought it was sentimental at times (though not overly so).. and "hilarious" is quite a stretch. But I'm kind of harsh when it comes to finding things funny. It was, however, not really bad at all. The thing that I disliked the most was the way the author seemed to divide everyone in the world into either blind or sighted. I mean, I guess that's as fair a division as any, it was just I read this under the pretense that it was unsentimental and hilarious, as it says on the back. Well, it lied. I thought it was sentimental at times (though not overly so).. and "hilarious" is quite a stretch. But I'm kind of harsh when it comes to finding things funny. It was, however, not really bad at all. The thing that I disliked the most was the way the author seemed to divide everyone in the world into either blind or sighted. I mean, I guess that's as fair a division as any, it was just the way he used it to speak about the way "us blind people" feel about things. Seriously, he kept going "those of us who are blind notice that...". I thought it was presumptuous and obnoxious for him to blatantly speak on behalf of the experiences of ALL blind people, especially when the book is a memoir. Also, it wasn't exactly self-pitying but it was a little...self aggrandizing. I think this is due, however, to the inherently megalomaniacal nature one must have in order to write a memoir about themsevles (especially at the age of like, 33, as this guy is). I think memoirs lead themselves to melodrama, exaggeration, and a bit o' victiminaztion on behalf of the author. Other than that, the book was pretty good.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    You wouldn't expect a book with the subtitle "a memoir of blindness" to be funny, but it is in fact hilarious. I guffawed frequently. As you might imagine, it has many poignant moments as well, and the writing is superb throughout. Highly recommended. (British Columbians will also appreciate the locale.) You wouldn't expect a book with the subtitle "a memoir of blindness" to be funny, but it is in fact hilarious. I guffawed frequently. As you might imagine, it has many poignant moments as well, and the writing is superb throughout. Highly recommended. (British Columbians will also appreciate the locale.)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This raised my awareness that blindness is not a single condition. One can be gradually, partially, legally, fully blind; blind at birth or blinded later in life. Knighton is a fearless and very funny writer. This memoir is beautifully honest, even through the hair-raising episodes of his gradual realization of his diminishing vision while driving and his attempts at dating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    I really liked the honesty of this book, as well as its self deprecating humour. I learned a lot about blindness and about living in a sighted world. Can't wait to read his next book. This is one of my favourite types of books right now- the personal memoir. I'm really into them right now. I really liked the honesty of this book, as well as its self deprecating humour. I learned a lot about blindness and about living in a sighted world. Can't wait to read his next book. This is one of my favourite types of books right now- the personal memoir. I'm really into them right now.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kris Merizon

    Very interesting. Had to read because the author is my brother's neighbor. Very interesting. Had to read because the author is my brother's neighbor.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    It was an interesting read that allowed me a marginal sense of what a loss of vision might be like. Indeed there was humour integrated throughout the book but I was disappointed that the portrayal of the loss of vision did not convey the intense emotional upset that I assume would result as a loss of vision versus being born blind. I enjoyed the author's journey to acceptance. I woukd recommend others read this book if for no other reason than to dwell more fully on the benefits that those of us It was an interesting read that allowed me a marginal sense of what a loss of vision might be like. Indeed there was humour integrated throughout the book but I was disappointed that the portrayal of the loss of vision did not convey the intense emotional upset that I assume would result as a loss of vision versus being born blind. I enjoyed the author's journey to acceptance. I woukd recommend others read this book if for no other reason than to dwell more fully on the benefits that those of us with no vision impairment enjoy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Whitt

    Ryan’s descent into blindness is watching someone else live out my worst fear, but he doesn’t live in dread and even finds humor in his surroundings. There were many interesting things he shared that I never knew about, such as his years of not seeing other people’s facial expressions meant that he stopped making his own. Looking forward to reading more by him.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    One of the review blurbs on the cover of this book says that it is “hilarious.” There’s nothing hilarious about this book. The author has a wry sense of humor but it’s a tragic tale of losing one’s sight. This book shows us how it must feel, and warns people about stupid things they may say or do around a blind person. Worth the read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    I don't remember what about this book stood out to me, perhaps his wit or skill with bringing the reader into his world, but years after reading this book I still think about the author and can visualize the narrators reality. Such an impression is worth noting. I don't remember what about this book stood out to me, perhaps his wit or skill with bringing the reader into his world, but years after reading this book I still think about the author and can visualize the narrators reality. Such an impression is worth noting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    I really enjoyed the first half of this book- how he learned he was becoming blind and how that affected his life. The later half of the book was a little slower- expressing his philosophical thoughts on his life now that he is blind- this didn’t hold my interest as well. Overall, a good read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

    Knighton guides us through his blindness, bumping us into aspects we'd never guess at. "Coming out" as blind at a job, the feeling of freedom at learning to use his first cane, misadventures at dating, a successful job interview with his fly down. Witty, thoughtful, incisive. Knighton guides us through his blindness, bumping us into aspects we'd never guess at. "Coming out" as blind at a job, the feeling of freedom at learning to use his first cane, misadventures at dating, a successful job interview with his fly down. Witty, thoughtful, incisive.

  19. 4 out of 5

    M Walford

    insightful

  20. 4 out of 5

    Krystal Wolfe

    Funny, insightful, relatable and with a touch that broke my heart. I learnt to view the world a little differently through this book, which is what every good book should do.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joan Barton

    It started off very well and then partway through lost my interest but I did finish.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Sweeny

    Great read Very informative about what my students go through as their vision decreases. It is helping me to help them cope with their decreasing vision.

  23. 5 out of 5

    John

    very pleasant look into the life of the blind, yeah and parts were quite funny.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Chan

    The author takes a very casual approach to talking about a very serious matter. It offers a refreshing perspective that focuses on taking the bull by its horns.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lara Samulenok

    A fast and easy read. The humorous writing style moves the story forward, and the topic is endearing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    I imagine it must be harder to lose sight than to be born without. I guess that's one of those questions that we'll never know the answer to though. Ryan Knighton does a pretty good job at describing what it's like to lose it though. Knighton has Retinitis Pigmentosa - which meant he'd slowly go blind. The process was so gradual that he didn't realize it was happening for a long time. The main reason I read this book was because I have a daughter with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and she is slowly gain I imagine it must be harder to lose sight than to be born without. I guess that's one of those questions that we'll never know the answer to though. Ryan Knighton does a pretty good job at describing what it's like to lose it though. Knighton has Retinitis Pigmentosa - which meant he'd slowly go blind. The process was so gradual that he didn't realize it was happening for a long time. The main reason I read this book was because I have a daughter with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and she is slowly gaining sight after having some cutting edge treatments. I found it a bit ironic that this book is like... the exact opposite of her condition. The book is a quick, fun read. It gives some good, insightful tips for people which I'm sure would be great to know even if I weren't around a visually impaired person every day. (Granted, she's not as old as Knighton - and won't be for quite some time) For instance, I found the section on pronouns enlightening. Whenever Knighton is out people talk about him and with those around him, addressing them instead of him. Like the waitress saying, "Would you like to order for him?" or "Would he like any help?" Apparently that can really get on a blind guys nerves. Stuff like that was very helpful. There were many funny anecdotes and stories. It's a scary thought that many others have Retinitis Pigmentosa. And that they don't know they're slowly going blind. And that they're still driving. And that they think everybody has the holes in their vision that they have. ... Definitely worthwhile. For sighted and blind alike.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gwen Tolios

    I absolutely loved this. I picked it up at a dollar store, thinking it would be a quick read while on vacation and something I could leave behind when I leave to make way for souvenirs, but now done I think I might keep it. Kingston gives a wonderful view into the world of the blind, and not just the mechanics of how to use a cane, but the emotional and mental adaptations that someone has to go through while learning to deal with the disability. Not born blind, he has a great way with words to c I absolutely loved this. I picked it up at a dollar store, thinking it would be a quick read while on vacation and something I could leave behind when I leave to make way for souvenirs, but now done I think I might keep it. Kingston gives a wonderful view into the world of the blind, and not just the mechanics of how to use a cane, but the emotional and mental adaptations that someone has to go through while learning to deal with the disability. Not born blind, he has a great way with words to compare his before and after lives, and while I can never envision the upheavals of such a transformation completely, Kingston has enabled a glimpse into. And his dealing with the issue mirrors what I feel countless people go through in a myriad of other issues, not just blindness; struggling with how you perceive yourself, how others perceive you, and learning how to deal with reality. This is a wonderful book, and certainly something I'll want on my self for times to come and pass along to others.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Louise Allison

    Loved the writing style and the humour, I feel as though I know Ryan and felt for him throughout his adaptation to a new life without vision. He writes with humility and without sympathy or regret and kept me gripped on every page. This was a 24 hour book, and can't wait to see the movie. Loved the writing style and the humour, I feel as though I know Ryan and felt for him throughout his adaptation to a new life without vision. He writes with humility and without sympathy or regret and kept me gripped on every page. This was a 24 hour book, and can't wait to see the movie.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Ryan Knighton, author of Cockeyed, has taken his trials and tribulations and turned them into a witty and insightful memoir that walks the reader through his journey from a clumsy teen to an unsighted adult. Despite the obvious hardships of his circumstances Knighton uses thoughtful insight and colourful imagery to educate the reader. His unique point of view shows the typical reactions of the general public and his own reactions to his unexpected circumstances. Although you may expect this novel Ryan Knighton, author of Cockeyed, has taken his trials and tribulations and turned them into a witty and insightful memoir that walks the reader through his journey from a clumsy teen to an unsighted adult. Despite the obvious hardships of his circumstances Knighton uses thoughtful insight and colourful imagery to educate the reader. His unique point of view shows the typical reactions of the general public and his own reactions to his unexpected circumstances. Although you may expect this novel to be a sad rendition of the blind, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find it quite humorous. There are some sections that are moving and others that are sad but they only add to your appreciation of how the author has conveyed his story. I had a difficult time putting it down and finished it in just a few hours, with little sleep between starting and finishing. I would recommend it to everyone, especially those looking for a light, yet insightful read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I really did love this book and here's why: It's got life, depth, sparkle, sensitivity, honesty, humor, and the ability to educate me on the interesting life he's led. I laughed when Ryan was talking about how people shouldn't worry so much about the "sighted words" in language. He's got a way with words, which includes making the reader FEEL (and yes, SEE) things, not just read them. Ryan's imagery is colorful and clear, from the beginning when he's working his first summer job and itching to d I really did love this book and here's why: It's got life, depth, sparkle, sensitivity, honesty, humor, and the ability to educate me on the interesting life he's led. I laughed when Ryan was talking about how people shouldn't worry so much about the "sighted words" in language. He's got a way with words, which includes making the reader FEEL (and yes, SEE) things, not just read them. Ryan's imagery is colorful and clear, from the beginning when he's working his first summer job and itching to drive the forklift, to the end when he's trying to remember details of a favorite photograph. In between, we learn what it was like for Ryan to drive a car (briefly), date, study, use a walking stick (and adjust to it), teach, get robbed (almost), and deal with his going blind during it all - it's quite a read I'd recommend.

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