Good Reading : October 2009
be a dominant theme in his writ and he politely cor rects me. 'My blindness was the subje of Cockeyed, [but] now it's becoming my point of view,' he says. 'It's my comic perspective. What I get more and more from editors, particularly of magazine is that they want me to talk abo the blindness when I'm talking about something else.' Ryan tak heart from writers in different minority groups who have already come through similar battles, like gay writers. 'I think queer writers have been through this.There was a time when, if you were a queer writer and yo were writing something about your life, gayness was a subject r than the assumed identity you w writing through,' he observes. The other difficulty for him is the assumption that because this is a memoir by a man who went blind, that it's going to be some kind of inspirational story. 'The hardest thing to fight with a book like this is that you have to immediately forefend the assumption that this book is going to be inspirational,' he says, his voice becoming droll. 'You've read it a million times: "the triumph of the human spirit will overcome it all and he'll find a nice person to look after him and he'll be happy smelling flowers and listening to rainforests".' Once you've read the book, it's clear that this isn't what it's about.What Cockeyed does do is tell the story of a young man who knows what's inherently funny about his condition as well as what's not funny; what's good in his life as well as what's tragic. His next book, which is yet to be named, is about the very early months of being a father for the first time. 'I knew the book had something when [my daughter] Tess was about four months old, and I decided to take her on a walk by myself for the first time. I was walking up the stairs with the Baby Bjorn, and said to my wife, "I'm going to take Tess out." And she was like, "Okay, I'll just get my y y her. It was really interesting to feel my wife's dismay: "That's my baby and I'm about to let a blind man strap her on and walk out into traffic with her ... but it's also my husband, and it's also her dad." All the kind of nor mal stuff you take for granted we could never take for granted.' A true writer, Ryan felt there was ample material here for a new book. He just had to figure out a timeframe for it. He loves taking pages and pages to explore a single moment, so how to begin and end a story about this new little life in his hands? 'I realised that it had to end when my daughter started to get language. Until she could speak it was very hard for me to be responsible for her. Cockeyed is sort of about me lear ning about how to be at home in my body, knowing what the risks are and being okay with that. I [eventually] realised that embar rassment was more crippling than blindness was; boredom was more crippling than blindness was; so I take a certain amount of risk just to keep myself amused. That got turned on its head as soon as I had a kid, because how do I become responsible for another person [when I take these risks]?' Ryan understands, indeed, celebrates the comedy of being a blind person. mething he's described as a constant state of slapstick'. n't shy from talking about wkward it is for him to use a toilet, or be afraid to tell the f how he nearly killed a guy riving a forklift just months his official diagnosis. He has iticised for this attitude -- of 'reinvigorating the Mr stereotype'. Ryan's response? a dumbass argument,' he ply. 'It's like saying because isabled nothing about be funny. If anything, the I have is being held hostage reciousness of my identity. nk there is a very close hip between discomfort our. And it's important usually tells you something about what we haven't been willing to talk about.' OCTOBER 2009 ı goodreading 31 author profile 3 Ryan Knighton Cockeyed: A memoir is published by Atlantic Books, r rp $24.95. Sarah Minns's Canadian interviews were undertaken with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Consulate General of Canada Sydney.