Author – Ryan Knighton
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Release Date: April 28, 2006
A Dribble of Ink is a blog with a unashamed genre bend; I enjoy Science Fiction and Fantasy, but that doesn’t stop me from stepping outside the genre and taking a look elsewhere when I feel myself getting burnt out. Because of this, every so often I’ll read a non-genre novel so good that I feel it’s worth breaking stride and bringing it here to the blog. Cockeyed, a memoir by a fellow named Ryan Knighton is one of those novels.
Cockeyed is Knighton’s story, but it is also a story of society and disability, of humour in the face of shitty situations, a story of accepting oneself, and a story of accepting others. On his eighteenth birthday, Knighton, a capricious youth living in Vancouver, is told that he’s slowly going blind and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. He doesn’t let this fact get in his way, though, and his travails through life – getting his first white cane, teaching english in Korea, travelling down a mineshaft in Poland, losing his pants in a nightclub – are peppered with a self-deprecating humour and an astute perception of life that many of us sighted people would kill for.
Memoirs, as a rule, thrive on their narrator being an compelling figure and Cockeyed doesn’t let down. Knighton never lets life get him down too much, and his disability is just another reality that he has to deal with – he struggles with worries that his disability defines him and how to make sure it never rules him. Humour is a constant in his life (specifically a scene near the end involving a fire drill at a blind camp) and Knighton has a way of looking at the world that could only really be achieved by someone who can’t look at the world. Where the memoir excels is that the reader never feels sorry for Knighton because he never feels sorry for himself. Knighton never asks for pity for his blindness, in fact he doesn’t himself see it as something that should be pitied.
Despite the few flaws (Knighton’s easy to read prose can be slightly sloppy in places and the last quarter of the novel feels rushed), the amusing situations and Knighton’s unique perspective on life make this an easy book to recommend. Knighton proves that real life often proves much more interesting than anything an fiction author could ever think up.