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

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I first stumbled upon this book on GoodReads last month and it intrigued me because I like New York. A few days have passed and I saw one of my GoodReads friend gave it a great rating and a review so I decided to give it a go when it comes out. I have to say that this book was so wonderful and full of wisdom (which you’d expect because it has Oliver Sacks in it – but I have to say that I found Bill to be rather intelligent and as interesting).

After a tragic loss of his partner Bill Hayes, at forty-eight moves to New York in order to escape from grieving thoughts which often occur after a loss of a loved one.  He gets to New York and becomes consoled by  –  it’s beauty, the New Yorkers, kind people with whom he crosses paths with and the capturing of it all with his camera. His friendship with Oliver begins in an inordinary way – by getting a letter in which Oliver said that he was supposed to blurb his book but only got around to it now. From that point on they began talking and going on dinners. Their relationship gets more intimate with time and they get to know one another better while socialising and most of all exchanging words and wisdom. Being a memoir, we see everything from Bill’s perspective – from the unusual encounters he has with strangers, to taking pictures of them, to walking through New York and just observing everything that he comes into contact with. We also experience the great wisdom and loss of a brilliant mind – Oliver Sacks.

This was a really warm and lovely memoir with almost every page shining with great quotes about life and other great things. I like how Oliver saw beauty and analysed things that most people don’t even think to look or think about. As I’ve said at the beginning I think that Bill was also quite intelligent and a good companion for Sacks. The conversations they’ve had were so brilliant and also funny! I like how Bill included photographs with each new chapter of the memoir. I have to say that I was surprised at how extroverted Bill is – approaching strangers, starting up conversations – but most of all I was surprised at how most people were friendly with him and agreed to have their picture taken by him. I also enjoyed Ilana and her ‘eye’ portrait of Bill, she really did capture his presence with just only his eye. There were tons of interesting people we meet through the pages. Bill is a very perceptive person and I really appreciated his stories.

Overall, a really great memoir about brilliance, loss and strange happenings in the city of New York.

My rating: ratingstarratingstarratingstarratingstar

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Bill Hayes is 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.

Find him on:  Website,  Twitter

2 thoughts on “[REVIEW] Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes

  1. Pingback: The Rapid Fire Book Tag | The Belgian Reviewer

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