Shivers & Signposts: The Journey Continues


For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall,
Beneath the music from a farther room,
So how should I presume?

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot (1915)

In T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the eponymous protagonist is a balding, insecure, middle-aged man preoccupied with aging and his own mortality. Looking back on a life characterized by predictable moments and routines, Prufrock seems crippled by indecision: what to do, what to say, how to presume?

Shivers & Signposts: The Journey Continues is Len Richman’s second exploration of a life measured out not by the monotonous cadences of Prufrock’s iconic coffee spoons, but by a distinct rhythm of his own devising. Picking up where his first memoir, Raindrops Glimpses Moments: An Unconventional Memoir of an Unplanned Journey, left off, Richman shows in Shivers & Signposts that he still has much to do, and much to say.

Richman is a heroic protagonist, an anti-Prufrockian character in his own narrative. Whereas Prufrock is detached, diffident (“Do I dare to eat a peach?” he ponders in one stanza), and prone to paralysis, Richman attacks life with uncommon vigour. Never motionless, he moves forwards - and sometimes backwards - suffusing each manoeuvre with unique energy. Where Prufrock is languor and decay, Richman is vitality and constant evolution.

How does Richman presume? He has known evenings contemplating the slow descent of the moon over an inexorably westernizing China, mornings navigating the unflinching waters of the Yukon River in northern Canada, and afternoons propelling an IV-bound child through forbidding hospital corridors. Like Prufrock, Richman shivers at the thought of growing old, of becoming stale. Richman, however, is driven onwards by “a pressing need to redefine and redirect his innermost self”, a self that he continually re-evaluates through the lens of modern technology, literature, theatre and film.

Like Prufrock, Richman, too, occasionally knows alienation and loneliness. Whether alone on his property at Peace Valley Acres, or surrounded by crowds of people amongst the bookstores, cinemas, banks, restaurants, and shops on St. Catherine Street in downtown Montreal, Richman has sometimes found unexpected desolation. But rather than languishing like Eliot’s famed “patient etherized upon a table,” Richman finds solace in deep family bonds, strength in the unlikeliest of friendships, and meaning in the projects (acting, writing, directing, etc.) that continue to punctuate his post-retirement “career.” These are the signposts that guide him through his fascinating quest for renewal of spirit and self.

“Let us go then, you and I” - to borrow from Prufrock’s opening verse - and join Richman on his continuing journey. Let us hear his decisive commentary on modern social and cultural mores, his unapologetic tackling of issues from racism to materialism to present-day psychoanalysis. Let us listen to the music of Richman’s own Love Song, in which he intones not only about the love of a woman (his wife, Muriel), but also about the love of a life well-lived – and still well-worth living. Let us be challenged, through Richman’s examination of his own life, to ask of ourselves: How should we presume?

Stuart Lubarsky, MD, MHPE, FRCPC. Neurologist, McGill University, Writer, poet, theatre critic, January 2015


Time Well Spent. What purpose a memoir? For politicians, a memoir is surely a self-serving attempt to either defend one’s time in power or, for one aspiring to power, an attempt to present oneself as a man of the people, invoking a suitably crafted biographical arc that inevitably leads to their, sniff sniff, noble desire to serve (so elect me now, please).

A garden variety celebrity -- athlete, actor, what have you -- is surely driven by the bottom line. Drop names, confess to sins past (a winning ingredient), depict yourself as wiser now for your past failings. A simple formula, really. But, ultimately, empty calories.

But what of non-celebrities, those known to a vastly smaller circle of people? Is the memoir a glorified Facebook page to recount a life of achievements? Is it a forum for setting records straight, throwing the truly deserving under the metaphoric bus? Or is the memoir less for those that would read it than for the author himself? Is it meant to serve the Socratic duty of self-examination? I would hope so. Or really, you have nothing.

Len Richman has written his second memoir in a decade, catching up on the more recent years of his life's journey. Where a great many of us would instinctively impose a novelist’s framework, constructing a nice, neat arc with all the requisite stages, easily identifying (and rationalizing!) the causality that moves us from stage to stage, Mr. Richman is too wise to fall into that trap. He recognizes that like it or not, we are pinballs, and we bounce this way and that with more randomness than we care to concede (and sometimes that has the outward appearance of Burnsian zigging where all others are zagging). But Mr. Richman has the heart of a chaos theorist. There is an arc, damn it, even if I can’t easily discern it. And he is probably right. Possibly. Maybe. And his Shivers & Signposts is a bold attempt to retrospectively navigate the chaos. What brought me from A to B? What, in hindsight, were ominous events that shaped me in ways I maybe didn’t recognize at the time? How does my behaviour at 70 reconcile with the 20-year old man I once was? Is there truth to the Jesuit maxim about seeing the man in the child?

I know Len Richman personally, though not as well as I’d like. I enjoyed reading the details of his life in his two memoirs. He has, and continues to live, a rich full life. He has done a great many interesting things. But what I admire most is his desire to learn. To learn about the world, and more than that, to learn about himself. Asking questions of oneself is a courageous thing if one is prepared to answer honestly. Chuck Van Den Corput, Nov. 26 2015 (The writer is a former student of the author, West Island College, 1976)

I think it is fair to say that we are all introduced to our lives (birth) and exited from our lives (death) in the same way - it's the "in between" part that is different. It is often called, "the journey" and I like that. Thank you for sharing your journey with me (and all the others who read Shivers & Signpost: The Journey Continues.), it has given me pause to think, it has provided me with insights I did not previously have, and it has brought me to appreciate all I have and all I have lived. Jack A. Grant, Formerly Head of West Island College, Calgary, Alberta

Len Richman leaps the gaps and/or creates the bridges that lead to a rewarding life, and his honesty and courage are inspiring in providing an example in how to manage aging and expectations. Sally Jennings, Professional Editor, Victoria, B.C.

Richman is stopped in his tracks by inklings of his own mortality, “shivers,” that provide direction for his journeying…Answers don’t come easily, but some “signposts” do appear… Can we look forward to another account in five years? Anne Fitzpatrick, PhD, Formerly Associate Dean, Marianopolis College, Westmount, Quebec

…Is it in the “examined life” that one can attempt to find some harmony, some understanding of our life journey? Richman’s willingness to share his with us will hopefully help us on our personal journeys. Irene Menear, Senior Research Associate, Lifelong Learning Educator, Montreal, Quebec

The final question must now be asked…in this second memoir. Has he finally confronted and conquered his dragons, thus freeing himself from embarking on another journey? Of course, that’s for (Richman) to decide. Tony Joseph, Medical-Research Ethics Board, Montreal General Hospital

…"retirement is a nasty, negative word that should be replaced with redirection, reinvention or renewal." Richman has penned the kind of memoir that I will benefit from re-reading at a later time in my life when (it) will have...even greater impact on me. Laura Fabiani, Library of Clean Reads, Virtual Book Tour Coordinator, iRead Book Tours, Lachine, Quebec

(Richman’s) attempt to understand…is meticulously confirmed by...comprehensive personal contacts, wide readings, and research gained from fellow intellectual travellers (great and small), all of which are scrupulously documented in the book for those who seek to pursue even greater enlightenment. Peter Tinsley, Reviewer, Pointe Claire, Quebec

Previously: Raindrops Glimpses Moments would be the culmination of a life well lived, if it were at all an epilogue. But for an author claiming to be in “the sunset of his life,” one senses that this is only the beginning. Get on the carpet and enjoy the journey. Stuart Lubarsky, M.D. Writer, 2008

How to obtain copies of the book

The cost of Shivers & Signposts is $13.99 in paperback, $23.99 hardbound. It is also available at: An eBook will eventually be available from Amazon and other sites for approximately $3.99 plus shipping.

Len Richman's first memoir, Raindrops, ($6.50) will also be available at the book launch. Please note there will be a short interview followed by food, wine, and good conversation!