... stunning ... Lot paints an unforgettable picture of Houston and the people who call it home ... It's hard to overstate what an accomplishment Lot is. Washington, 25, writes with the wisdom and grace of someone twice his age — he's a keen observer of human nature; his characters are flawed but not irredeemable, and he writes about them with a compassion that's never condescending ... Washington writes about family dynamics with a brutal honesty. The young man's fights with his siblings and parents all ring true to life, as does his bitterness toward his absentee father, whom he blames for the destruction of his family ... Perhaps the most important character in Lot is Houston itself, and Washington does a brilliant job making the city come to life in all its imperfect glory. His book is an instant classic of Texas literature, but it's more than that — it's a stunning work of art from a young writer with immense talent and a rare sense of compassion, and one of the strongest literary debuts in several years.
Washington’s subtle, dynamic and flexible stories play out across [Houston's] sprawling and multiethnic neighborhoods. His characters move through streets named so often — Richmond and Waugh, Rusk and Fairview — that they come to have talismanic power, like the street names in Springsteen songs ... Washington cracks open a vibrant, polyglot side of Houston about which few outsiders are aware. On one level, this landscape is bleak ... But there is a fair amount of joy in Washington’s stories, too ... A few of these stories are barely more than vignettes. One or two don’t quite coalesce. This is on a certain level a modest book, one that isn’t going to drive other young short story writers into the shadows. But the promise Washington displays is real and large.
Bryan Washington’s Lot is not only a stellar debut but also an essential blueprint to understanding America’s next best city ... Covering the breadth of Houston’s infamous sprawl—chapters take their names from the city’s streets and neighborhoods—Lot manages to squeeze a whole world of cultural, political, and social issues into the macro-microcosm that is the place nicknamed Space City: racism, poverty, violence, drugs, gentrification, AIDS, the War On Terror, and anti-immigrant conservatism ... Washington writes with as much warmth and humor as he does grit. Like the tiny shards of reflective, mirror ball-like material that flecks a pavement’s surface, Lot’s stories glow amid their own inherent darkness ... Lot is not only the story of Houston, it is also your story, my story, our story. A sorrowful tale, a hopeful story, a beautiful gift—the song of America today.
In this enthralling collection of interconnected short stories, Washington vividly portrays the interior lives of his marginalised fellow citizens, often overlooked in literature save as characters sketched to elicit pity and despair. These are tough yet tender tales of uncertain existences, stalked by the certainty of future violence and the shadow of homelessness ... In subtle but bruising prose, Washington deftly conjures an idiosyncratic world in which people live cheek by jowl ... As the stories follow and contextualise each other, the sense grows of the characters’ inability to escape the closed circuits of their desperate lives ... A number of these stories stop abruptly in the midst of a profound realisation; far from being irritating, Washington’s technique here mirrors the fleeting lucidity of his characters, who are usually in a fug of alcohol, and their casual acceptance of disastrous events ... Washington...already possesses a compelling and seasoned writer’s voice.
... vivid ... Washington’s writing is spare but sensual, the characters unsentimental but compelling. Lot is a deep dive into a world that that most people glimpse from freeway overpasses or on the local news reports of drive-by shootings and drug busts. Most of the remaining stories that fill the book don’t quite measure up to the family stories ... These cavils aside, Lot is an unsparing but compassionate work of fiction. Bryan Washington is a name to remember.
... Lot spills over with life — funny, tender, and profane ... Much like Tommy Orange or Junot Díaz, Washington takes characters often consigned to the literary margins and drags them to the center — not as exotic objects of curiosity but as whole human beings, messy and defiant and drawn in full, vibrant color.
With a light touch, Washington shows us the struggle of the marginalized to survive in a city ravaged by increasingly devastating hurricanes, spiraling rents, and the threat of economic displacement. Yet he never fails to delight in the moments of unlikely pleasure that outsiders often fail to see ... At its best, [Washington's] stark language, often shorn of names and concrete identifiers, achieves a lyricism that enlarges our awareness of the mesh of personal experiences that make up the city’s history. Washington’s queer men are often in the closet or relegated to the margins, and the collection masterfully conveys the atmosphere of mingled dread, exuberance, and defiance that pervades their lives ... Sometimes the collection’s language can be lyrical to a fault, smothering Washington’s meaning in layers of abstraction ... Occasionally, such withholding of detail lends the feeling that we have been participants in one of the narrator’s many casual encounters rather than beneficiaries of his trust. Still, Washington has delivered a radiant picture of a city in flux—and of a community living simultaneously at its center and on its margins. Lot is a debut that announces a writer of uncommon talent and insight.
Almost every line in Bryan Washington’s debut short story collection feels like a sucker punch ... This book’s style is ambitious but never forced ... Even for those like me unfamiliar with the city, Washington makes the place sing with his sharp, rap-style lyricism ... This isn’t the apple pie Texas of southern belles and Stetsons. We meet sex workers, drug dealers, blacks, blancos and Latinos, and the snappy, telling sentences capture a whole social order in a mere few words ... Do good things come to people who 'look to the shore', who are upwardly mobile, as per the American dream? This book seems sceptical of the idea. But it is also full of nuance ... What Washington does best is to find a strange beauty in it all, without offering judgment or redemption.
Introspective and understated ... In terse prose, author Bryan Washington fully renders the inner lives of gay men struggling to endure the hardships of poverty and racism, while also sketching a nuanced portrait of a rapidly gentrifying city ... Washington excels at emotional subtlety. In spite of the stories’ sensational premises, the dialogue is spare, the prose minimalist, the scenes tightly plotted ... [Washington's] minimalist style is understandably light on sensory details, though, and it doesn’t lend itself well to evoking a strong sense of atmosphere. Instead, the collection offers a series of powerfully affecting character studies ... Bryan Washington has a knack for writing subtle stories with impactful endings, and his career seems poised for success.
The diverse cast of characters in these stories makes the book brim with life ... As readers, we should look out for Bryan Washington. I believe he has more to say, and I look forward to reading his next work.
A sensitive portrait of life among Houston's struggling working class ... For all of this, however, there's something airy about this book. Despite its aspiration to represent a city, its prose often feels maddeningly abstract ... The collection sometimes feels more like a collection of modern fables than the hard-nosed, realist stories it wants to be. Still, Washington writes with an assurance that signals the arrival of an important literary voice. A promising, and at times powerful, debut that explores the nuances of race, class, and sexuality with considerable aplomb.
... a stellar collection ... Washington captures the dual severity and tenderness of the world for young people. Washington is a dynamic writer with a sharp eye for character, voice, and setting. This is a remarkable collection from a writer to watch.