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The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott (2020)
Book Reviews

The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott (2020)

An artist facing the tragic loss of her eyesight learns to adapt and find a new path to inspiration.

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An artist’s greatest fear is losing their ability to create their art. For pianists, it’s their hands; singers, their voice; dancers, their legs; and for other artists, it’s their eyesight. Blindness is one of the most frightening and immediate scenarios anyone could ever face, and that’s the fear Zoe Thorogood encapsulates in her first graphic novel, The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott, loosely based off of her personal experience with the deterioration of her own eyesight at a young age.

Art is such an interesting expression humans have created for themselves. At times, the artist doesn’t even understand where the resulting music, dance, artwork comes from — it emerges uninvited and unfiltered. It’s an honor to see that creativity come through the artist and admire the end result.

Billie Scott is a reclusive artist who’s waiting with bated breath to be accepted as the 2020 New Artist of the Year Exhibition. It’s any artist’s dream to be exhibited, especially at a prestigious and well-known art museum. After receiving her letter of acceptance, she experiences exhilaration, then impending anxiety and imposter syndrome around what to submit. The more Scott tries to focus, the more ideas slip through her grasp. Desperate for inspiration, she heads outside only to get into a fight when she accidentally sketches the wrong person.

After the fight, Scott licks her wounds in her room only to notice something off about her vision. Black spots dance in her eyes. Unfortunately, the optometrist confirms her greatest fear: her eyesight is deteriorating, and fast. Both her retinas have detached and she’ll be blind in two weeks. Drowning her sorrows with this life-altering news, Scott does something she hasn’t done in a while — interact with people which helps give birth to the inspiration around her exhibition piece: ten paintings of people who fascinate her.

It’s funny when faced with life-changing decisions, people are more willing to step outside of their comfort zones to make up for time they’ve lost. They let loose their inhibitions to reclaim their life. What should have been a life lived to its fullest is put on hold because fear or anxiety imprisons them. But when death comes calling, only then do people realize how precious life is and they ‘wake up’ to what’s important: connection.

Thorogood does an amazing job encompassing the fear and anxiety artists experience for an exhibition on top of losing their ability to continue creating art. Scott goes on an awakening of sorts, feeling her way through the ‘invisible’ people — those who everyone passes on the streets: the homeless, the less fortunate, and the buskers. Thorogood’s personal experience with her own impending blindness at 21 is an emphatic reminder that we can’t permanently rely on one particular perspective; we always have to adapt.

When you’re an artist, you view the world with wonder. But what happens when your ability to see the world is taken from you? Thorogood takes us on such a journey in The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott, showing us what we need to focus on in life, and not pass a blind eye (pun intended!) to others. Throughout her ordeal, Scott’s able to regain some sense of who she is as a human being, outside of being an artist. This only reaffirms how losing one’s eyesight isn’t the end of the world when you’ve got a community of great friends to support you.

About the Author: Evelyn Wong