Insomniac City by Bill Hayes, Bloomsbury.
The ways of writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks were “not of our time”, writes author and photographer Bill Hayes in this tender snapshot of both a man and a city. Bill was 48 when, in 2009, grieving the loss of his partner, Steve, he left San Francisco to “reinvent himself” in New York City. Furnishing his “tree house” apartment with a desk, chair and mattress, the laughter-filled bar downstairs did not help sleeplessness, but had “an ameliorative affect on broken heartedness”. He gazed at the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings “like an old married couple… he in his boxy suit, she in her filigreed skirt”. Oliver, 75, had never “come out” nor been in a relationship when he and Bill fell in love – both insomniacs, both lovers of words. Bill didn’t just fall in love with the “brilliant, sweet, modest man… prone to outbursts of boyish enthusiasm”, he adored him. They swig wine, listen to Bach and people-watch, describing how they walk. Life in the city that never sleeps ended for the gentle couple when Oliver died in August 2015. But if ever there was a memoir to celebrate living, this is it.