Jim Knipfel


talks with

Ryan Knighton


How the blind are portrayed in popular culture:
Stepping in buckets
Stepping in coils of hose
Falling into rivers
Fighting in the jujitsu style

For the sake of this interview, two blind guys walked into a Brooklyn bar and somehow managed to find one another. Ryan Knighton is the Canadian author of Cockeyed, a memoir about growing up, going blind, and driving poorly. A tragic tale? Enough to be shortlisted for Canada’s Stephen Leacock Medal for Humor. On the bar stool next to him sat Jim Knipfel, the former New York Press columnist, and author of the widely acclaimed memoirs Slackjaw and Ruining It for Everybody.

Both Knighton and Knipfel were slowly blinded in their teens and twenties by the same genetic condition, a complicated thing called Retinitis Pigmentosa. While this is the first time the two had met in person, they began a lengthy correspondence after critics and readers noted the peculiar similarities between their lives and, er, perspectives. Look out, sighty. Both their white canes sport large, blue eyeballs for tips.


RYAN KNIGHTON: Have you ever thought about getting a seeing-eye dog?

JIM KNIPFEL: Oh, hell no. I don’t want to walk the damn thing twice a day. I don’t want to get down on my hands and knees to try and find the crap. I’ll tell you, up on Twenty-third Street in Manhattan, there’s an apartment complex for the blind called the Associated Blind. They’ve since changed the name to Visions, which is just cruel.

RK: That’s like, I used to get a newsletter from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Their tagline on the bottom was “If you have to be blue, be bright blue”—a Walt Disney pearl. I thought it was such a fucked-up thing to say to people who may have never seen blue, let alone bright blue.

JK: But this apartment complex in Manhattan—from what I heard it’s just a hotbed of blind carnality. It’s just people crawling about and…

RK: Groping and screwing. Oh, I’m sure. If sighted people only knew what we’re capable of.

JK: Yeah, just moving from one apartment to another. I used to have to pass by every morning on my way to the paper.

RK: I’ve always been afraid of blind people, even when I became one. I don’t want to join in.

JK: So have I. No, no way in hell. You don’t want to hang out—a bunch of creepy freaks. You could catch it.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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