A lifetime of sleepless nights is the surprisingly entertaining basis for this debut memoir.
Insomnia might seem like the world’s dullest topic, but Hayes dresses it up with layer after layer of humor, pathos, love, loss, and emotion. From crying babies and their frustrated, merlot-sipping caretakers to friends and loved ones suffering from AIDS, from renowned sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman’s sleep-deprivation studies in Mammoth Cave to Hayes’s coming-out stories and sexual experiences, sleep and sleeplessness serve as poignant touchstones to consider questions of family, friends, and life. The full range of sleep-related disorders and disturbances march through these pages, including sleepwalking, sleeptalking, jet lag, and nocturnal emissions, as well as a brief history of the bed and an excursus on caffeine—practically a food group of its own in the Hayes household, which was headed by the owner of a Coca-Cola bottling plant. Such a laundry list of sleep-related topics could have easily devolved into a frustrating crazy quilt of anecdotes and episodes, but Hayes’s steady tone—learned, friendly, and wry—creates an impressive unity throughout. He manages to treat even the complex arcana of the science world’s attempts to understand sleep and sleeplessness in refreshing, lucid prose. By encapsulating his coming-out and queer-sex stories within the overarching theme of sleeplessness, Hayes pushes the borders of gay autobiography, giving new life to a powerful genre that has lost a bit of its freshness in recent years. Hayes closes with a description of his trips to Stanford University for treatment of insomnia, but he should be careful that those treatments don't put to sleep his restless muse.
Who knew insomnia could be so much fun?