A couple of years ago, I came across a short story by the then-unknown young writer Bryan Washington in the New Yorker that captivated me instantly. It seemed to get better with each rereading. It’s called ‘Waugh’ and forms part of Washington’s debut collection, Lot, which was published in 2019 to critical acclaim. The interconnected stories in Lot are set in and around Houston, Texas, in what might be accounted its rougher districts, where life is often a matter of mere survival. The Texans here are for the most part of black and Latino origin, speaking the vivid, immediate language of the streets.
In his impressive first novel, Memorial, Washington has widened his horizons geographically. The book has two first-person narrators: Benson, a young black man who works in a children’s day-care centre in Houston, and Mike, a Japanese-American who has found employment as a chef in a Mexican restaurant. They have been