It’s Not Too Late

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Insomniac City by Bill Hayes is a beautiful, moving treatise on his deep love affairs with the neurologist Oliver Sacks and the streets of New York City. Grieving over the sudden death of his partner, Hayes moves to New York to start a new chapter of his life. A lifelong insomniac, he wanders the streets at night with his camera, either basking in the neon loneliness or connecting with homeless poets, misfit supermodels and booze-hound attorneys: the lost, the lonely and the utterly lashed.

It’s kind of a journal of psycho-geographical meanderings but at the core of the narrative is the story of how a writer and scientist fall unexpectedly in love. Hayes was in his late 40s and broken-hearted; Sacks was in his mid-70s, had never been in a relationship and had also never come out publicly as being gay. But, with silent yet all-knowing skyscrapers, the steady rumbling of all-night trains and uncanny haikus of blue-collar philosophers as a magical backdrop, the two connect in a deeply passionate, spiritual way.

When Oliver Sacks gets sick, there’s a poignant sense of missed opportunity, a sadness for the fact that, for all its joy, late love carries with it a subtext of not getting to spend a lifetime together. But Sacks is less concerned with regret or fear and more obsessed with savouring this new-found emotion and sucking all the marrow out of life. As beautifully demonstrated by the epigram in the picture above.

As a lover of the drama of big cities, an ardent NewYorkophile (is that a word??) and a hopeless old romantic, I can’t recommend this highly enough.