Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me by Bill Hayes

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As seen on Goodreads:
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 neighbor, 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 (Sacks died of cancer in August 2015). Insomniac City is both a meditation on grief and a celebration of life. 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.

My Comments:

I couldn’t help but fall in love with New York City as I lived it through author Bill Hayes’ eyes reading Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me.  He is a wonderful observer and he captures the essence of people through photographs and his stories.  He tells us his life journey (after he loses his beloved partner he leaves San Francisco to start fresh in NYC) and we experience his existence as he heals his soul, taking in the sights of the city and finding beauty in his connections with others.  We here about his relationship with Oliver Sacks, the well-known neurologist,  genius of a man and can feel the love they had for each other through the pages.  Although Sacks was almost 30 years older, Hayes often seemed to be his guide contributing to what made them a well matched, intriguing couple.

I’ve always been enamored with New York City and did enjoy living there for a while, but now, in addition to my renewed appreciation and love for my favorite city I feel warm feelings toward author Bill Hayes who is no doubt a kind, tender hearted, open minded man who, in his life has nurtured loves until they are gone, but he continues to see, appreciate and capture the beauty in this world. Oliver Sacks seemed like a brilliant, unique and loving man…I would have enjoyed meeting him.

As Bill Hayes writes. ” It requires a certain kind of unconditional love to love living here.  But New York repays you in time in memorable encounters, at the very least.  Just remember: Ask first, don’t grab, be fair, say please and thank you, always say thank you – even if you don’t get something back right away.  You will.”

This tender memoir was like reading a love letter to New York City – I have a list of people I know who will cherish it like I did!

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The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction, Bill Hayes is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and the author of several books.

A photographer as well as a writer, his photos have appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Granta, New York Times, and on CBS Evening News. His portraits of his partner, the late Oliver Sacks, appear in the recent collection of Dr. Sacks’s suite of final essays Gratitude.

Hayes has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome, the recipient of a Leon Levy Foundation grant, and a Resident Writer at Blue Mountain Center. He has also served as a guest lecturer at Stanford, NYU, UCSF, University of Virginia, and the New York Academy of Medicine.

Purchase a copy of Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me HERE

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About booknationbyjen

I love reading and write about great books on my blog https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com
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