J. Richman’s A Man’s Late Night Thoughts is a collection of 342 thoughts presumably scrawled in the middle of the night when the author either struggled to sleep or woke up heavy with reflection. The hardcover book includes comment sections at the bottom of each page where readers can “answer”, in essence, each of Richman’s thoughts with responses of their own. The thoughts are invariably short, a sentence or two, and this contributes to the book being a quick read. It’s a book capable of dividing opinion – some will place great value on this book while others will find Richman’s observations often facile or too general. The vast majority of readers, however, will find the book’s observations to be intelligent and thoughtful.
It is easy to imagine Richman kept a notebook next to his bed and wrote these thoughts down in a near fever. Perhaps he sat at his kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a cigarette burning in his ashtray. The author emerges from these pages as an individual with a busy, if not tumultuous, internal life but, despite the intense nature of many entries, Richman never comes off as depressed. Instead, he comes off as someone who is, at least, in a period of self-examination and spends a lot of time contemplating the nature of life.
The book has a nice understated design and the aforementioned comment section for readers provides more than an adequate amount of room to write. One gets the feeling the book reproduces the observations as originally written due to the lack of capitalization and punctuation. Their lack might be a detriment in other works, but it doesn’t harm A Man’s Late Night Thoughts; instead, it reinforces the spontaneous nature of the book.
Richman mixes in light comedic observations with the serious moments and they offer readers moments in levity amidst the pages of serious reflection. Richman has hit upon the right length for the book, but there is no clear narrative thrust to a nebulous work like this – readers can open the book at any point and begin reading from there. Many of Richman’s insights are striking and will give comfort to those moving through the same areas of life.
Richman’s A Man’s Late Night Thoughts is an unusual book and is certain to find an audience. It is impossible to surmise whether Richman set these thoughts down with an eye towards eventual publication, it doesn’t seem so, but it is fortuitous that these observations naturally lent themselves to collection in book form. Dorrance Publishing Company has done an excellent job of assembling the book in a polished and professional way and the crowning touch is the inclusion of space for readers to add their own thoughts. Even after they fill those spaces, however, readers can continue revisiting this book for the comforts and insight it provides. A Man’s Late Night Thoughts is a sturdy publication, has enduring value, and will be an invaluable addition to anyone’s personal library for years to come.