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Bryan Washington

Author of Memorial

10+ Works 1,333 Members 60 Reviews

Works by Bryan Washington

Memorial (2020) 788 copies
Lot: Stories (2019) 430 copies
Family Meal (2023) 104 copies
Bayou (2017) 2 copies
Upamiętnienie (2022) 2 copies
Waugh 1 copy
Katy 1 copy
Houston-Osaka (2022) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Best American Short Stories 2021 (2021) — Contributor — 124 copies
The Best American Short Stories 2022 (2022) — Contributor — 88 copies
The Best American Food Writing 2022 (2022) — Contributor — 25 copies

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Common Knowledge

Birthdate
20th century
Gender
male
Nationality
USA
Places of residence
Houston, Texas, USA

Members

Reviews

Editing to add that after reading some other perspectives on this novel and thinking about them I have a better appreciation for Memorial, Mike and Ben make a bit more sense to me. Still not a favorite but it’s better than my initial rating.

Memorial asks the reader to care about the future of the relationship between partners Benson and Mike, which I found difficult to do for several reasons. The biggest of these for me is that Washington never shows us why these two should be together in the first place. Their relationship is abusive and dysfunctional from the start of the novel, neither seem very happy in it and it seems the best reason for it still being a thing is that Ben can't afford to move out. Presumably they were a happy couple at one time, but we don't get that and it leaves me thinking hell yeah, Ben, go explore a relationship with Omar; hell yeah, Mike, move to Japan. What's the counter-argument here, exactly? Glad we got that suspenseful conundrum resolved.

Secondly, it's hard to perceive much difference in the personas of Ben and Mike. Washington writes them in a similar, almost exact, voice. This makes it hard to see them as individual fleshed-out characters.

Another problem I had with the writing beside a failure to differentiate the character's voices is the way Washington writes dialogue, like it's a constant Socratic exchange, which becomes exhausting to read. Here's three examples taken from just a short section of the novel when I first decided to note it, to illustrate the point:
What kind of guy did you think your son would end up with, I say.
Is that your real question, says Mitsuko, or are you asking something else?


Hey, I say, when are you coming home?
That's the question, isn't it, says Mike.


Later, once he's left, she asks me what's wrong.
Why does something always have to be wrong, I say.


Can't you people just have a regular question-and-answer conversation?! Maybe this is an individual irritation though, I don't know.

What should be a common reaction on the part of the reader though is, "Wait, Mike's mom flies to the US from Japan to visit him for the first time in many years, he doesn't tell her he's leaving for Japan himself the very next day(!) to see his dying father and doesn't know when he's coming back, and so his mom stays and lives in his apartment with his boyfriend who she's never met for weeks and weeks, not knowing when he's ever coming back?" In what world does this happen?

As you may surmise, I had some problems with this novel.
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Flagged
lelandleslie | 40 other reviews | Feb 24, 2024 |
Finally adjusted to the bizarre voice of Benson, with his unnecessary details and observations that had no importance and conflicting thoughts to actions... then it switched to Mike in a totally different style. I didn't care about either character or either story so I stopped bothering.
 
Flagged
Jenniferforjoy | 40 other reviews | Jan 29, 2024 |
Cam and Kai are a couple, it happened, perhaps to their surprise, and they are enjoying it until the death of Kai. This leads Cam to a drug-fueled, sex-addicted, food-denying life of grief. And then an old friend, TJ comes back into his life and it becomes even more complicated or simple depending on how you view life, family and its relationship with food.

One of the major themes in the book is recognising when you are loved and what is done out of love. Anything can be misinterpreted - concern seen as being too involved, wanting to know someone better as asking too much, not telling someone something as a desire to cut them out and then being completely surprised when they come to rescue you.

I enjoyed the changing perspective of the narrator from Cam to TJ and then Kai. Each person filled in some of the gaps in the story and more and more is revealed but in a very sparse form of writing. Cam is haunted by his dead partner Kai and some of their discussion take place in small snippets, each having its own page, floating in the middle but accentuating what is said. I also loved the photos that were included of the flowers, cherry blossom and streets although I am not really sure what they add to the story.

No punctuation for the dialogue is not a hinderance - sometimes it can be. The convention of new speaker, new line is followed so it isn't all one big blob of words that you have to work hard at delineating speakers. What I am less sure about is what it adds or takes away from the telling of the story. Does it make the dialogue more a part of the narration? Thinking about how it would look on the page I can imagine that the amount of speech punctuation you would need for this book would take away some of the sparesness of both the writing and the appearance on the page.

The families are many, fluid and cook, all extremely well, knowing where the equipment is and moving around each other in a dance. It brings them together with the cooking sometimes being payment for accomodation, as a favour to a friend who may become more, and as sustenance. It is very symbolic that Cam denies himself food in grief.

A book to tuck into.
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½
 
Flagged
allthegoodbooks | 2 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |
Did not finish. I listened to about 10 stories, including the title story, and found them to be very similar in content and tone. Not really my style.
 
Flagged
gypsysmom | 15 other reviews | Dec 16, 2023 |

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Rating
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ISBNs
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