Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me

Writer and photographer Bill Hayes first met the great writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks in 2008, when Sacks contacted him to say how much he enjoyed Hayes's The Anatomist. They corresponded, found shared interests and met once for lunch.

Hayes was grieving his partner of more than 16 years, who one night suddenly went into cardiac arrest and died. In 2009, Hayes moved from San Francisco to Manhattan for a change of scene. Although he had not moved for Sacks, he was now his neighbor, and they began spending time together. "He was without a doubt the most unusual person I had ever known, and before long I found myself not just falling in love with O.... I adored him." Sacks told him to keep a journal, and Hayes's brief impressionistic entries are woven throughout Insomniac City, which seems written in heightened states of feeling that infuse every detail with meaning and transient beauty.

Hayes is one of those people whose appreciation of daily life and capacity for love only expand with age and the awareness of death. His compassionate curiosity extends to everyone and everything around him. He meets all kinds of New Yorkers in the streets and on the subway, talks with them, photographs them (his photos bookend numerous prose segments throughout), builds acquaintanceships and friendships. His relationship with Sacks is filled with domestic detail and tenderness, through to Sacks's death in 2015. Thankfully, Hayes has no pat answers for anything in life, but many reasons why it continues to be worth living. --Sara Catterall

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