Review for “Lot” by Bryan Washington (2019)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
This book is a collection of short stories set in Houston, Texas. About half of them are from the perspective of one character, a queer Black man who remains unnamed until the end of the book. The others are from various other perspectives, mostly men of color in and around Houston, dealing with sexuality, racism, family dynamics, and gentrification. There’s also a lot of meditation on toxic masculinity and finding one’s voice as a queer man of color.
Sadly, I did not connect with this book. It took me about two months to get through it, considering that each time I picked it up I didn’t really find the stories very memorable. This is not to speak ill of the writing, which is actually pretty good and reminded me a lot of Junot Diaz’ early work (not “Oscar Wao” but his first work, “Drown”). What killed it for me was that a lot of the stories had abrupt endings. You know what I mean: you’re reading along and building up into a solid narrative and then a paragraph appears and the story ends in a few lines. I get that that’s a stylistic choice, but it’s annoying as hell and doesn’t allow much for good storytelling. Also a problem was the ‘distance’ between the characters, a kinda ‘dead’ space in between what’s explicitly told and what’s abstract that never really allows you to connect with the people here, even if you wanted to.
This is the author’s first book, so I won’t harp on its flaws too much. Bryan Washington definitely has potential, and I look forward to his full-length novel that will be coming out this fall.