The Story of O: A Recollection by Oliver Sacks’s Surviving Partner

Christopher Bram in the New York Times:

HAYES-master180The British neurologist Oliver Sacks transformed the medical case study into a new literary form. In books like “Awakenings,” “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and “An Anthropologist on Mars” he presented not just clinical facts but recognizable human beings, people we could identify with despite their otherness. He enabled us to see the world through the eyes of men and women with autism, Tourette’s syndrome or memory loss: those who experienced reality differently and expanded our conceptions of emotion, time and space. His stories read like metaphysical fairy tales.

Shortly before he died of cancer in 2015, Sacks turned his attention on himself in an autobiography, “On the Move,” followed by a frank set of articles in The New York Times later published as “Gratitude.” He shared not only his thoughts about life and death but, for the first time, his sexuality and how he had recently found love with a fellow writer, Bill Hayes.

Hayes has now written his own memoir, “Insomniac City.” The reader goes to it hoping that he will do for Sacks something like what Sacks did for his subjects, painting a portrait that mixes intimacy with intellectual understanding. But this is a different kind of book, a loose, impressionistic collection of prose snapshots, street photographs and journal entries. And Sacks isn’t Hayes’s only focus. His other subjects are New York City and himself.

More here.