BOOK REVIEW: Insomniac City: Bill Hayes

Insomniac City

Bill Hayes

Bill Hayes came to New York City in 2009 with a one-way ticket and only the vaguest idea of how he would get by. But, at forty-eight years old, having spent decades in San Francisco, he craved change. Grieving over the death of his partner, he quickly discovered the profound consolations of the city’s incessant rhythms, the sight of the Empire State Building against the night sky, and New Yorkers themselves, kindred souls that Hayes, a lifelong insomniac, encountered on late-night strolls with his camera.

And he unexpectedly fell in love again, with his friend and neighbour, the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, whose exuberance–“I don’t so much fear death as I do wasting life,” he tells Hayes early on–is captured in funny and touching vignettes throughout. What emerges is a portrait of Sacks at his most personal and endearing, from falling in love for the first time at age seventy-five to facing illness and death. Insomniac City is both a meditation on grief and a celebration of life and a profound, life affirming celebration of the wonder of love, unexpected, un-invited and overwhelmingly beautiful love. Filled with Hayes’s distinctive street photos of everyday New Yorkers, the book is a love song to the city and to all who have felt the particular magic and solace it offers.

The final chapter of the book  touched me deeply and I left the book slowly, with dignity feeling like I’d like to live and die half as well as Sacks and experience a love just as simple, clear and true and experience it with such honest relish as has Hayes.

A superb, touching and affirming read!

Out Now £16.99

For more info or to buy the book see the publishers website here. 

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