Saturday 13 May 2017

Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

Insomniac City by Bill Hayes was my third bloody brilliant book in a row.

I went from the stunning award winning Museum of Modern Love by Australian author Heather Rose to the thought-provoking Exit West by Moshin Hamid to Bill Hayes' beautiful, heart-felt love story about his partner Oliver Sacks and New York City.

The three books felt interconnected by theme (love, loss and belonging), creativity & art and by my response. All three books stimulated and enticed me to read deeply and thoughtfully.

New York City also played a part in both The Museum of Modern Love and this book, as well as helping me choose my next (and current) read, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.

These four books will now be forever linked together in my mind.

My copy of Insomniac City is the rather lush hardback edition with deckled edges. The cover has one of Bill's photographs of the cross street near his home across it, while the dark blue jacket has little windows cut out to see through to the colours underneath.

Insomniac City is part memoir, part observation and part journal. Hayes' writing is poetic and mesmerising. His kindness and generosity shines through on every page. I felt inspired by how he could find beauty in everyday life and his power to create a meaningful connection with those around him.

Bill has also littered the pages with many of his New York photographs featured on his Instagram page (found here).

The only problem, however, that I soon discovered with deckled edges, is how hard it is to flick though the pages. I had marked, in pencil, several significant passages and possibilities to include in this post.

The only one I could easily find again was this remark of Oliver's to Bill,
The most we can do is to write - intelligently, creatively, critically, evocatively- about what it is like living in this world at this time.

This is something they both excelled at and something that I aim to do (however imperfectly) here at Brona's Books.

My reading doesn't occur in a vacuum.
It's influenced by what is going on around me as well as inside of me. Sometimes I want an emotional reading experience (happy, sad or anywhere in between) and sometimes I want to be engaged on an intellectual level.

The very best of books do both at the same time.

I have now read three books in a row that do just that.

Spring Shadows in New York - Bill Hayes
Bill Hayes is one of the many authors appearing at this year's Sydney Writer's Festival - another reason why I was moved to read this book.


  1. I never heard of this book...but will investigate it!
    You are so lucky to be in Sydney and that great writer's festival (22-28 May)
    Thanks for the festival link and am looking forward to any post you
    write about your visit there! Which authors are you really keen to see/listen to?

    1. I have tickets for a one woman play about Jane Eyre (I saw here do an Austen play last year which I thoroughly enjoyed), a panel discussion about mothers with Caroline Baum and Nadja Spiegelman (I read Nadja's memoir last year), Kate Grenville is doing a talk about her anti-fragrance book and Nadja has another talk a couple of days later purely about her memoir. I'm also seeing Saroo Brieley and his Australian mum talk about his journey and book Lion A Long Way Home and I'm going to a retrospective look at 25yrs of Looking for Alibrandi. I may see more talks spontaneously on the days that I go :-)

      Bill has a Sunday morning talk about this book, but it will depend on how tired I am!

      I'm starting to get excited.

    2. I have written down a few names....will
      see which book can add to my Australing reading list!
      I still have more Thea Astley's to read this year!

  2. Reading around a theme such as New York City can be very rewarding. You convey ways in which books can be fulfilling very well in this post.

    I find that your posts are indeed written "intelligently, creatively, critically, and evocatively" .

    All the books that you mention here sound very good. I would like to read them all.


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