March 09, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Sleep Demons: An Insomniac's Memoir

Current Status
In Season
Bill Hayes
Gay and Lesbian, Memoir
We gave it an A-

There’s not a whiff of complaint in Bill Hayes’ Sleep Demons: An Insomniac’s Memoir (Washington Square Press, $24.95). Instead, he’s written a graceful hybrid of a book that’s half research treatise and half memoir about a gay man who grew up in a household steeped in forces of Ireland, Catholicism, and the military. A chapter on sleep talking, for instance, concludes with Hayes’ own need to unburden himself, if only to the privacy of night: ”I finally get it out. I tell them I’ve been attracted to men since I was a boy … Before I can finish, it’s morning.” In spots, the presentation of sleep science seems overly fastidious, especially in comparison with Hayes’ compelling personal story, where one finds his loveliest writing: ”I lay motionless, as though sewn to the sheets by the smallest demons … Finally at 3 a.m., I snipped the threads, discarded my carcass at bedside, and left it behind in disgust.” Yes, the author needs some rest, but his beautiful book seems just compensation for all his wakeful hours. A-

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