c’mon papa-ryan knighton

one day in montrill, i was coming out of the metro when i was stopped by a woman looking to pass off a blind man. i guess she was leading him as far as she wanted to. when faced with the question, “are you going his way?”, i couldn’t for the life of me, say no. that short walk was peppered with confusing conversation (it took place in english, french, spanish, and other indeterminables) and ended with the realization that there are those among us who are completely dependent on everyone around them in ways that the rest of us have no idea about. how can we?

when i heard an excerpt of this story on this american life, i knew that i had to read the book. it’s been quite the journey through imagining the life of a blind man becoming a blind father, and it’s a story that works just as well in print as it does in stereo.

“After reading that much I was glad I couldn’t see. I was already blind. I didn’t need to become an idiot, too.” (35)

“To this day, whenever I hear the page of a magazine flip, I think of pelvic exams. We were in a waiting room and waiting for one. I listened to Tracy thumb through Marie Claire while I eavesdropped on the receptionists and the other patients, all of them flipping other magazines, perhaps readying other pelvises for other examinations. I’d heard the same scene the day we confirmed we were pregnant, and again when we waited in the hospital for a D&C to remove any residual tissue from the miscarriage. It makes you think differently about the magazine industry and its audience.” (21)

“These could be signed out by the receptionist, just the way we borrowed books in elementary school before computers obliterated the ritual of signing them out, thus depriving a generation of children their weekly occasion to invent adult, rococo signatures. This was not an office, not a clinic, but a cozy, charming storefront boutique. It was like hot soup or a favorite sweater. This was a place where moms were made, not patients or diagnoses.” (48)




3 thoughts on “c’mon papa-ryan knighton

  1. to live is a writerly duty:

    “When breast feeding, Tracy’s, er, direct contribution to Tess only illuminated my lack of purpose, so I wanted to do something. rite. Bring home bacon, be resourceful and necessary. Half of the household equation. The other challenge, of course, is that a father can seem to be running away from responsibility when in fact he just wants to do stuff, and then do more of it, because there are a lot of verbs that need tending to. Writing was one of mine.” (205)

    “When I became a writer, I began to measure time in word counts. When I was a smoker, I measured time in cigarettes. This would have been a half-a-pack trip, or fifteen hundred words of rough prose. Now, as a father, I measured the day as a series of scheduled show times and curtain calls for the baby. My mathematical units may change, but the math never lies. Our trip had good numbers, and all indications pointed to a smooth, reasonable journey.” (133)

    “Now, maybe it’s a side effect of my blindness, but I collect phrases I’m dead certain I’ll never hear again, the same way sighted folks archive photographs of novel visual moments.”

  2. witness:

    “Though I haven’t seen my own face in nearly a decade, I sometimes believe, albeit subconsciously, which means stupidly, that this time things will be different, that this one image will somehow steal its way through the fog. Needless to say, the baby was no exception. It remained an abstraction. An idea reconstituted from Tracy’s description. A flash. I thrilled in front of the computer screen, hunting for a heartbeat’s shape, but seeing nothing. I could feel my desire caged and pressed against the bars, wanting to experience the freedom and immediacy of sight. It does a funny thing to a blind guy. I’m there, but always with me is a feeling that part of my being is withheld. Denied access to the real. Even a pixelated version of the real.” (45)

    “I also didn’t know that the word “infant” originates in the Latin phrase, “without voice.” What I know now is that the person, or asshole, who came up with that definition didn’t have an infant, or had never heard one in her car seat.” (138)
    “During Tess’s first six months, as she grew and her cognitive architecture developed, Cairo remained of no interest to our daughter. The pug, likewise, showed a deficit of affection for Tess. The pug treated Tess like some bald strumpet who’d poached our love. Now we occupied our hands with soothers and teething rings, not liver treats or Cairo’s stinky velvet frog, her favorite summer chew toy. I didn’t know dogs could discern betrayal.” (178)

    “She was eight years old, and already destined to be a workplace harassment officer.
    “That may be,” I said, “but it’s just ‘Our father, Art in heaven.’ God’s name is Art. And where does Art live? He lives in Heaven.”
    The littlest girl’s jaw dropped. I’d just peeled back the veil of reality to show its first secret name.
    “God’s name is Art?” she said.
    “Yes. In fact he has many names.”
    “Like what names?”
    “Let’s see,” I said, and continued the prayer. “Our father, Art in Heaven, Howard be thy name.”
    “Stop it!” the harassment officer cried. “You’re not supposed to say that.”
    “I can’t say Howard?”
    I was never invited back.” (192)

  3. speaking of dark days, this doc affected me in the same way as the rat book in shaping my (on-hiatus) desire to be in new york city. it’s that resilience and the desire to make the most of things.

    oh, and in related news, alicia erian (last blog’s writer crush) glowingly endorses this book. circular, aw hell yeah.

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