There’s no lone star in Bryan Washington’s Lot, just a cast of characters as drab as the Houston neighbourhoods they inhabit. ‘There’s the world you live in,’ says the narrator of the title story, ‘and then there are the constellations around it, and you’ll never know you’re missing them if you don’t even know to look up.’ Most of the characters in Washington’s debut don’t know each other, but together these ‘short stories’ (as the dust jacket calls them) form an illuminating city ‘novel’ (as per the copyright page). Although about half of the stories are told by a recurring narrator charting the decline of his family, Lot is primarily unified by place.
Each story is named for a different area of Houston. In ‘Alief’, a suburb ‘where motherfuckers were born, lived, and died without coughing a word of English’, the hood itself talks, narrating in an evasive first-person plural. After a Jamaican woman begins an affair with a ‘whiteboy’, word makes