All My Sins Remembered
by Adam Stanley
All My Sins Remembered is the first novel by poet Adam Stanley.
The years is 2009, and Andrew White has just had his last argument with his first love, Leigh Mallory, whom he has not seen in almost ten years. In the sultry heat of a July, Atlanta night, he sweats out his sins and his regrets in a cheap motel, somewhere just off I-75. He has been in love with her for twenty years, and there have been many casualties along the way, including his own body, mind and soul. His only salvation lies in his enduring love of art, and the realization that maybe there is more to life than Leigh Mallory.
It was true, I had been searching for peace, or at least what I thought was peace. Starting that night after Graduation, when I drove away from Aventine for the first time, alone, and headed south to Key Largo in a car that that seemed empty without Leigh, my life has been one endless search. I have never stopped. And whatever it was I was looking for, I was always moving too fast to notice whether or I had found it or not.
I made up excuses to keep moving. For as long as I can remember, I have been looking for an abstraction that I have always called happiness. In summer I long for the snow. In winter I cry for the sun to return; in the autumn I watch the same leaves die that I watched come to life in the spring, and each season they are equally beautiful. For as long as I can remember, I have been looking for happiness, which is really nothing more than an abstraction; a kind of dream to keep you going year after year; an antidote against the sadness of reality; a lie that keeps you alive. I wait and wait, but there are too many tomorrows, and not enough todays.
Every six months I packed my car and made another impulsive move to an adjacent state. Following a lover or a dream, it always seemed just a few more miles down some Southern interstate, where the only difference was the vegetation, and a slight rise in humidity with every inch I drove further south on the map. Too often I found myself alone on some endless road, all the bridges I had spent so much time building, burned and left behind. Like that morning I had when I woke up in Nashville, alone, and hung-over, not sure what I had done wrong but it must have been bad because when I got up and looked in the mirror, both of my eyes were black and my face was caked in blood. Just like all the other times, I got in my car and drove south as fast as I could. This time it was a cousin in Mobile. Later, while I sped down interstate 65, I remembered bits of the night before. I had gotten very drunk and hit on this guy’s wife and he pulled a gun.
That’s all I remembered as I drove on, the lights from Montgomery fading in the rear-view. South Alabama was nothing but darkness and with the windows down I could smell the invisible cotton fields and rolling pastures strong with the acrid scent of manure in the warm, early spring air. As I drove on, radio stations passed away; old Country dissipated into static, then fluctuated for an hour or so between a screaming Pentecostal preacher, and a wavering Bach string quartet, before the Classic Rock station in Mobile took over for good.
This was not the first time I had taken this escape root [sic]. No matter where I was going, the desolation of these flat, lonely highways was unavoidable. Every time I ran from something, I was always driving in Alabama, and just like every other time, I always ran out of road.
It was water that stopped me every time. The ocean was the inevitable end to all my journeys. Whether it be the wild, reptile infested outcroppings of bayou and wetland that lie hidden like an Eden just south of New Orleans, beyond the iron bridge, where the Big River pours out its soul into the Gulf; or Biloxi, sitting entranced by a black jack dealer whose hand’s fluttered gracefully as a bird, watching the water in quick glances through the windows as he shuffled the cards like a magician. Pensacola, the beaches white as frozen tundra, sandbars rising in the green waves like humpback whales.
There were even bolder attempts to lose myself in the illusion of distance. I spent a few months in Europe, living on trains and in hostels. But no matter how far I traveled, the past was always close enough to feel its warmth on my face, its chill in my bones, its beauty and sadness brighter and clearer than it had ever been. Once, while waiting for a ferry to cross the English Chanel, I stood on the edge of a giant white cliff looking into the ancient turbulence filled with rusting Spitfires and cannon-blasted Spanish Galleons; I thought of Leer, and how we take the plunge into maturity and finally senescence, like a proud, blind King who is no better than his fool as he wades into the deep waters of death.
On the flight back to Atlanta, from France, I woke up and the clouds below looked like sand dunes or snow, and buried under them was the Atlantic. Everyone else was sleeping. The sky was very blue. The blue got darker and darker until it looked like night, like a sketch of the stratosphere I had seen in a science book in third grade.
Closest to outer space I will ever get; nearest to heaven I’ll ever be.
Some of My Favorite Lines
There are so many great lines in this book, including those in the images featured in this blog post. You can also check out the author's Facebook page and Tumblr blog for more images and quotes.
"The past is a dangerous place. Lately, I have been going there way too often - but there is nowhere else to go."
" ... she was his reason for living, and had been since he was fifteen."
"Like sound, not all silence is the same."
"Dying can be a very slow process."
"Even if someone would have told me that all those smiles would turn into wrinkles, I would have smiled anyway. A smile is worth it. You are going to grow old anyway, why not do it while smiling."
"She had loved heroin more than her own child."
"It is sad how someone can mean so much to you, and be such an important part of your life, and then, because of time, or other uncontrollable circumstances, you never see them again."
"Not all flowers are snipped as cleanly and perfectly by the careful hands of a florist as the fairytale ends of long-stem roses. The rarest, and most hauntingly beautiful wildflowers are ripped from the earth in a frenzied moment of passion, pulled up by their roots, with no thought of consequences or the possible aftermath."
By Lynda Dickson
The title, a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet, is extremely apt and sets the mood for this poignant story. Andrew is a man haunted by many things, but mainly by his obsession for Leigh Mallory, his first love. Abandoned by his drug-addict mother at the age of four, his life has been marked by one disappointment after another. Now approaching forty, he sits drinking in a seedy motel and recalls his loves, his losses, his regrets, and the sins of his youth. He also contemplates suicide.
I have been following the author on Tumblr for a few years and was excited when I found out his book had finally been published. Unfortunately, I was in for a big disappointment. There is no doubt that the author knows how to write. The language is rich and beautiful and compels one to keep reading, even though the plot is barely existent and the book consists mainly of the stream-of-consciousness musings of a middle-aged drunkard. But that's not my complaint. Those of you who follow my reviews will know that nothing annoys me more than poor editing. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst-edited books I have come across. I would go so far as to suggest that no one other than the author read the manuscript before it was published; it doesn't even appear as if the author himself re-read it. It puts me in mind of Chuck Wendig's quote referenced in one of my recent blog posts: "Just yarf it up". The author did just that, but then he didn't clean up after himself.
Formatting and proofreading problems include: no paragraph indentations, overuse of commas, lack of apostrophes, incorrect punctuation in speech, incorrect word usage, spelling mistakes, lack of capitalization, inconsistencies with names (Corey/Cory, Rachael/Rachel), repetition. Other problems: the narrative jumps around with not enough indication of time and place, making it extremely difficult to follow; there are too many characters, making it hard to keep track of who is actually important to the story; I couldn't follow the action in the New Orleans incident, a pivotal event in Andrew's life; there isn't enough character development to explain Andrew's obsession with Leigh Mallory. It's a great shame there are so many problems with this book because the writing is beautiful, the narrative is compelling, and the story is heart-felt. My note to the author: get your book edited and republished.
Warnings: coarse language, drug use, alcohol abuse.
About the Author
Adam Stanley has been publishing poems and short stories for the last twenty years. Some of his credits include, "The Old Red Kimono", "The Prairie Schooner", and "Chum". He is an amateur musician and music lover, and his works are often imbued with a musicality that he still retains from his days as a rock musician and a student of Classical piano. He lives in rural Georgia. All My Sins Remembered is his first novel.