INSOMNIAC CITY by Bill Hayes

INSOMNIAC CITY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A photographer and distinguished nonfiction writer’s account about starting over at midlife in New York City and falling in love with famed neurologist Oliver Sacks.

Looking for a fresh start after the sudden death of his long-term partner, Hayes (The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomy, 2007, etc.) moved to Manhattan from San Francisco in 2009. He immediately felt at home in New York largely because the “city that never sle[pt]” was as much an insomniac as he was. The author quickly made friends with Sacks, with whom he had begun corresponding about The Anatomist. Not knowing whether Sacks was hetero- or homosexual, Hayes found himself “sort of smitten” with the eminent neurologist from the start. Shy and formal, Sacks was as ebulliently “boyish” as he was quirky and brilliant. As their relationship deepened, Hayes was also drawn into the magical restlessness that was New York. He took pictures, many of which he intersperses through the narrative, of everything from trees in winter and his beloved Oliver to young lovers and ex-cons. Hayes also diligently recorded his impressions—alongside conversations had and overheard—in personal journals, and he interweaves these observations throughout the book with anecdotes about his relationship with Sacks, who died of cancer in 2015. The author’s vignette-style recollections are especially endearing for the sensitive way they portray a 70-something Sacks coming into awareness of—and claiming—his own homosexuality as he fell in love with Hayes. But perhaps the greatest strength of the book is the way it weds one man’s openness to experience with what ultimately, and quite unexpectedly, became his two greatest passions: a closeted neurologist nearing the end of his life and a city in an endless state of flux and evolution.

A unique and exuberant celebration of life and love.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1620404935
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2016




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