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"Talent shines on every page of this feisty, bittersweet memoir."   -ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, Grade: A
   

The Edmonton Journal; Date: Sunday, June 25, 2006; Page: E9

An honest man's journey into darkness
by Eamon McGrath

I admit that I have an overwhelming fear of going blind. Everything that I hold dear in life -- reading, writing, artistic communication -- I owe in some way to my sense of sight. Vancouver writer Ryan Knighton, who teaches literature and creative writing at Capilano College, shared similar sentiments, I'm sure, as his worst fears became reality. On his 18th birthday, Knighton was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative and irreversible condition which leads to total blindness. The darkness gathers but Knighton is unaffected in his ability to comment, with pinpoint accuracy, on the surrounding world and his environment.

Cockeyed is Knighton's memoir, and it serves as a confident and effective confessional. Knighton has achieved an act of unprecedented artistic integrity: he has managed to create a story out of his own life without pretentiousness or egotism.

The big picture here is that Knighton uses his own blindness, and his descent into his "abyss," as a metaphor for growing up, and it's not coincidental that his vision worsens as he matures. Once he receives his diagnosis of diminishing sight, he embarks on the paradoxical journey of attempting to make sense of a world when it is -- quite literally -- turning to black around him.

It's interesting, most notably because everybody actually feels this way at some point in their lives; as humans, we are faced with this natural paradox, in that the world becomes more and more confusing as we are supposedly expected to make more sense of it. For Knighton, these feelings of discontent and alienation have actually manifested themselves in a distinct and tangible experience.

Cockeyed provides us with an unprecedented insight into this experience; you leave the story feeling as though you truly have shared in Knighton's experiences, and you marvel at his courage, and his ability to overcome such complex circumstances.

It's quite powerful stuff. It's addictive, as well. Knighton also litters his book with landmark observations on his parallel musical and literary journeys. In pondering contemporary culture, he ranges from punk music and mosh pits to the finer points of shopping for a couch at Ikea. The book seems to be therapeutic for the author, as Knighton crafts absurdly comic situations out of the sadness of his own experiences.

Knighton seems to cull inspiration and influence from almost every side of the artistic and cultural spectrum, while simultaneously filtering it through a sieve of his own experiences and artistic vision.


Eamon McGrath is a freelance reviewer.



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