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

The Globe and Mail; Section: Book a Day

Book at Day Column   
by John Allemang

Sightlessness doesn't offer many advantages, you have to assume, but Ryan Knighton has hit on the dark humour that can only be found by the white cane's tapping.

His title is just the first indication that the blind man's perspective on life is bound to be askew. The progressive tragedy of retinitis pigmentosa is in here somewhere, and moments of despair and self-loathing are essential to his memoir about going vision-free. But as much as Knighton assures us the supersensitivity of the blind is a myth, he's a classic example of deprivation's compensation policy.

Seeing little, he misses nothing. Sure, public washrooms are a disaster (try tapping for a urinal), navigating through an unfamiliar space "is a constant state of slapstick" and couch-shopping with his wife at Ikea becomes a tedious confusion of invasive odours, darting crowds and long brown globs that call themselves furniture. Knighton doesn't diminish the blind man's delusions and dependencies even as he mines them for material, but he goes beyond easy laughs and held-back tears with his calm insights about what it means not to see.

Cockeyed isn't a just a philosophical meditation on his blindness; far from it. The early chapters are classic B.C. misspent youth even before the retinitis kicks in, and his accident-prone younger years are pitch-perfect tragicomedy -- particularly the guilt shift with his father as his destructive driving habits (e.g., trapping the car within a barricade of rocks) are revealed as the first symptom of disease.

Having no gift for sorrow, Knighton turns every part of his newfound life into the blinded version of sudden enlightenment. Bemusement becomes him: He stretches out his wry tales of passing for sighted in a pick-up bar or being mistakenly mugged in New Orleans (his attackers couldn't spot his handicap -- is this a good thing?) or impatiently descending into an underground salt mine behind a poky blind man to the point where they become exquisite essays on the eye's limitations.

Our limitations as well as his -- that's the beauty of Cockeyed. It takes a blind man to recognize how the sighted world can miss the obvious, that basic words like "this" and "that" are meaningless in the dark. But Knighton, in his wisdom, doesn't whine or moralize -- he just tells it the way he sees it.



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