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INSOMNIAC CITY: NEW YORK, OLIVER, AND ME BY BILL HAYES

PUBLISHED BY BLOOMSBURY
REVIEW BY JANE MOORE

After Bill Hayes’ partner dies suddenly, he leaves his life in San Francisco behind and moves, at the age of 48, to New York. He has no real idea of what he wants or where he will end up. This book is a love letter to the city he discovers as he wanders the streets at all hours of the day and night, talking to random people and taking photographs of New York life. It is also a love letter to Oliver Sacks (who I confess I had never heard of - apparently he’s very clever and famous), who Hayes meets and falls in love with, at the same time he’s falling for New York.

Like any good New Yorker (even adopted ones apparently!) Hayes has the ability to strike up conversation with almost any stranger, and many of these conversations – and the photos that accompany them – make their way into this book. They provide fascinating little slices of New York life. These anecdotes are intersected with entries from Hayes’ journal, and stories about his life with Oliver – eating, drinking, smoking dope and looking at the city from the roof of their building.

If you love New York this is undoubtedly a must read. I really enjoyed the little conversations and the odd people he meets. The photos are great too – gotta love a book with pictures! It’s quite odd and disjointed, not one coherent narrative. It has lots of stories and bits and pieces from Hayes’ life in New York all mashed together but this doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment this book evokes. It is an insight into a couple of fascinating lives in a fascinating city. 

Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.