Knighton, Ryan 1972-
Knighton, Ryan 1972-
Agent—Bukowski Agency, 14 Prince Arthur Ave., Ste. 202, Toronto, Ontario M5R 1A9, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, editor, poet, memoirist, essayist, journalist, public speaker, and educator. Capilano College, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, instructor in literature and creative writing, 1997—. Worked as an English teacher in South Korea. Contributor to Definitely Not the Opera, CBC Radio, and to other radio programs.
Swing in the Hollow (poems), Anvil Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2001.
(With George Bowering) Cars, Coach House Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Cockeyed: A Memoir, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals and newspapers, including New York Times, Globe and Mail, Sunday Telegraph, Vancouver Sun, Montreal Gazette, Salon.com, Believer, Walrus, Utne Reader, Canadian Living, Saga, Saturday Night, Waitrose, Geist, and Vancouver Magazine. Editor, Capilano Review.
Ryan Knighton is a Canadian author, poet, and educator. Born in 1972, Knighton has spent his entire adult life coping with the effects of a degenerative visual disease. A few days before his eighteenth birthday, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a congenital eye disease that gradually progressed through night-blindness, tunnel vision, and finally, complete blindness. Undaunted by his prognosis, however, Knighton continued to pursue his education and professional career. He taught English in South Korea, though he often had to pretend to have greater visual capacity than he actually possessed at the time. He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Simon Fraser University, and was hired as an instructor in English and creative writing at Capilano College, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, shortly before he turned twenty-six. Almost ten years later, he still teaches at Capilano. Throughout his schooling and academic career, Knighton has refused to be sidelined by his visual impairment. Indicative of his determination, "For two years he also served as editor of the Capilano Review, even curating the magazine's visual art spread," reported a biographer on Knighton's home page. "Good descriptions helped," the biographer added.
Among Knighton's written works are Swing in the Hollow, a collection of poems, and Cars, written with George Bowering, in which the authors tell stories of family, friendship, love, and life in the context of the cars they have owned and driven. For Knighton and Bowering, the stories that people tell about their cars reveal as much about the person as they do about the automobiles.
In Cockeyed: A Memoir, Knighton tells the story of his gradual descent into blindness, describing the effects it had on him and exploring the new but intriguing world of limited sight that his condition brought to him. In this "hilarious and unsentimental yet moving memoir, he tells what it was like to lose his eyesight," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. At first unwilling to acknowledge his condition or to take steps to accommodate it, Knighton continues to behave as though he has full access to his sight. He keeps driving, using the tires' impact with the reflectors in the roadway to help him stay in his lane. Initially resistant, he finally learns to use the traditional red-tipped cane, and is amazed at the world of mobility and sensation it opens up to him as he learns to substitute sensations from the end of a stick for his sight. He writes movingly of his eventual acceptance of his condition, and describes its effects on him and those he cares about most, including his family, his friends, and his devoted wife, Tracy. An Entertainment Weekly reviewer called Knighton's memoir a "compelling, sturdy read, while Teenreads.com contributor Alexis Burling remarked that his grace and wit constitute a "rare and balanced combination, struck by a well-traveled soul." A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "engaging and insightful, literally shedding light on a dark and misunderstood condition."
Knighton has been the subject of a documentary, As Slow as Possible, in which he made a trip to Germany on a musical pilgrimage. In May, 2006, a pipe organ in the city of Halberstadt made a single note change in an ongoing performance of avant-garde composer John Cage's As Slow as Possible. Cage's piece has been undergoing a nonstop performance for years; single notes are held for months and years at a time, and the entire performance is expected to span centuries and generations. A note change in such a gargantuan undertaking is a significant event, and Knighton was determined to travel to Germany to experience it. When Knighton mentioned his plan to documentary filmmaker Scott Smith, both thought it would make an outstanding project for a new film. Smith followed the nearly blind Knighton throughout his trip, recording his travels, his difficulties, and the profound personal moment when sound expanded and gave Knighton's awareness an unexpected focus.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Knighton, Ryan, Cockeyed: A Memoir, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2006.
ARC, winter, 2001, review of Swing in the Hollow, p. 87.
Biography, summer, 2006, Beverly Biderman, review of Cockeyed, p. 526.
Books in Canada, December-February, 2001, review of Swing in the Hollow, p. 43.
Canadian Book Review Annual, January 1, 2006, review of Cockeyed, p. 48.
Entertainment Weekly, June 2, 2006, Nicholas Fonseca, review of Cockeyed, p. 88.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), April 29, 2006, Beverly Biderman, review of Cockeyed.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2006, review of Cockeyed, p. 392.
Maclean's, July 3, 2006, Rebecca Eckler, "Talk about a Blind Date," p. 59.
Publishers Weekly, April 10, 2006, review of Cockeyed, p. 56.
This Magazine, January 1, 2007, Ron Nurwisah, "Capturing the Senses: What Happens When Documentary Meets Travel Research," profile of Ryan Knighton, p. 37.
Times Literary Supplement, September 7, 2007, J.J. Purdon, "Almost Gone," review of Cockeyed, p. 24.
United Church Observer, July-August, 2006, Donna Sinclair, review of Cockeyed, p. 40.
Coach House Books,http://www.chbooks.com/ (January 8, 2008), biography of Ryan Knighton.
Montreal Mirror,http://www.montrealmirror.com/ (January 8, 2008), Juliet Waters, "Ryan Knighton's Cockeyed Is an Angry, Poignant, and Sometimes Funny Memoir of Going Blind," review of Cockeyed.
Ryan Knighton Home Page,http://www.ryanknighton.com (January 8, 2008).
Scream Literary Festival Web site,http://www.thescream.ca/ (January 8, 2008), biography of Ryan Knighton.
Teenreads.com,http://www.teenreads.com/ (January 8, 2008), Alexis Burling, review of Cockeyed.