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 48 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 75 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, a love song to the New York City and to all who have felt the particular magic and solace it offers.
©2017 Bloomsbury US (P)2017 Audible, Ltd
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Customer Reviews

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4 out of 5 stars
By espanolish on 04-05-17


I grew up in New York City, Lower East Side primarily, but also Greenwich Village and Staten Island. Insomuch as I have been transient most of my post college graduate years, I no longer call the Big Apple or any patch of land my home. Though the City author Bill Hayes describes is no longer the same one in which I spent my formative, prepubescent, young adult years, it is undoubtedly the place I currently frequent and readily recognize— right down to the shoutout to Russ and Daughters Deli on Orchard Street. Hoyt captures in equal measure a definite sense of place (NYC, but also any locale that one holds dear), time (the present now, more or less), and mood (joy, grief, and a complete array of experiences in-between), making the book relevant and relatable and entertaining. The work is as much an ode to the ever mutating and always addicting Manhattan as it is an expression of gratitude for the imperceptible spark of life that, out of nowhere it seems, sparks to full fire and gives us a boost just as we are about to give up— or already have given up.

I liked the way Hoyt was able to connect with nearly every walk of life padding across Manhattan's terrain. I'm sure my NY bred cynism is coloring the feel that perhaps some more "realistic" experiences were either figuratively "photoshopped" or otherwise eliminated. Thus the drop in points. Maybe I would have felt different if I had grown up familiar with the inimitable personality of neurologist Oliver Sacks. Instead, I was inundated with Archie Bunker pop culture (I hope to goodness I am not dating myself!). Despite my spiky take on Hoyt's what... syrupy??... take, I’ll likely be reading this again.

Narrator Stephen Bel Davies left no lines between himself and Hoyt (sans the saccharine).

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4 out of 5 stars
By Mike Zinni on 17-07-17

Required Reading for Any Sacks Fan

If you're a fan of Olivar Sacks, then you'll enjoy this book. Hayes provides a perspective of the man that only he could have known. It's wistful and dreamy, but not without intention. Expect to find all the humor and beauty you would from anything Sacks touched. But expect more.

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