Ryan Knighton (3 stars)

Cockeyed (Atlantic)


Maybe it has ever been thus, but the cult of an individual neither you nor I have ever heard of telling us all about their unfortunate life seems to be spreading. We may wish to blame Frank McCourt for it all, but the misery market is flooded with tear and blood-stained pages as trauma, abuse and neglect are accompanied by large pound, dollar and euro signs. In north America however, a new sub-genre has emerged to stop all this agony in its tracks as dismal childhoods and psychologically damaged adult lives are tinged with light relief.

The quirky memoir may still contain battles against the odds but the unremitting distress is at least leavened by humour; hence the success of Augusten Burroughs, JR Moehringer and Jeannette Walls. And now comes Canada’s Ryan Knighton, whose own troubles are more of a malfunction than dysfunction as his tale tells of the creeping blindness which was diagnosed on his 18th birthday. Denial became the hardest thing to battle. Realising that he probably shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car required a few minor accidents for it to sink in while his comfort with wielding the white stick takes longer to develop. A sensitive and warmly told story, his lightness of touch actually serves to deny the reader the full emotional range which the scenario surely merits. Feeling a little bit more sorry for the guy could have elevated the reading experience, but getting a glimpse into another way of approaching the world makes it worth seeking out this latest unusual history.

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