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The Theory of Light and Matter Hardcover – October 15, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The narrators of Porter's Flannery O'Connor Award–winning collection tend to be young and clear-eyed beyond their years as they give voice to the secrets—family, their own—that haunt them. In the opening story, Hole, the narrator ruminates on the loss of a childhood friend and the slippery nature of guilt, memory and truth. In Storms, a young man considers his relationship with a troubled sister, who abandoned her fiancé in Spain without a passport or money. The narrator of River Dog wonders if he should or could hate his brother for the things he did to other people, and for what they did to his brother. In the title story, a young woman ponders the nature of a May/December romance. If the events and secrets of these characters' pasts have not overtaken their lives, then their reverberations still threaten to corrupt the years yet to come. Throughout, Porter shows how love and pain often come hand in hand. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

Some writing is like taking a sip of the clearest mountain spring water: quenching, even though you’ve had water before. There are no new themes or revelations in Porter’s debut, winner of this year’s Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction—just the dalliances of suburban couples, the reminiscences of childhood, middle-class boredom, and academic affairs. Luckily he rescues his characters from the short-story doldrums, where plots might otherwise be known by rote. With clear, strong prose marked by devious underpinnings, Porter’s style is straightforward, his characters careful narrators treading above a murky pool. “Hole” recounts a shocking accident: two boys, summertime chores, and a sudden death in an illegal manhole. The two teenage boys in “Departure” spend a summer making idle attempts to date beautiful Amish girls; and in the title story, a college student is torn between the boy she hopes to marry and the secret, innocent affair she is having with an older professor. What these stories share is the haunting lull of memory and its deceptive, shadowy recall. --Emily Cook

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press; (2nd) edition (October 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820332097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820332093
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,250,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Porter is the author of the story collection The Theory of Light and Matter, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the novel In Between Days, which was a Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he has received a Pushcart Prize, a James Michener/Copernicus Fellowship, and the W.K. Rose Fellowship in the Creative Arts. His work has appeared in One Story, The Threepenny Review, and on public radio's Selected Shorts. Currently, he teaches fiction writing and directs the creative writing program at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E S on December 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Porter at a book reading/signing for this collection and I was quietly blown away. I had to buy the book right then and there, to find out what happens with his characters. In particular, I loved the title story, in which the protagonist (a young college girl) is torn between a deep sense of intimacy and longing for a professor and the safety of her same-age college boyfriend. Porter writes with a subtle danger, not unlike Raymond Carver or John Cheever, intoning the internal struggles of suburbia. I felt as though his characters could be walking next to me on the street or passing me in the store. They are like anyone we know, with deep wells of passion and hurt hidden away. "Hole" is a heightened "what if" story of regret for a boy who witnessed a tragedy and could have, possibly, stopped it from happening; "Azul" examines what happens to a marriage when a foreign exchange student becomes a surrogate child; "River Dog" explores the narrator's uncomfortable gut instinct that his older brother may have been involved in an assault; and "Departure" follows a teenage boy through his fascination with an Amish girl. Often, I've found contemporary short story collections to be saccharine-sweet or predictable, so "The Theory of Light and Matter" has been a treasure of a find for me. Highly recommended!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"The hole was at the end of Tal Walker's driveway. It's paved over now. But twelve summers ago Tal climbed into it and never came up again."

'The Theory of Light and Matter' is Andrew Porter's debut book of short stories. Mr. Porter is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and his debut collection has already received the 2007 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. Originally published by the University of Georgia Press, it will be republished in a much larger edition by Vintage Books in January 2010. Hopefully, it will find the audience it deserves.

The stories in this collection take place in suburbs across the country - in hallways, backyards, stairwells, schoolrooms, universities, junk yards. The collection is populated by the affluent, the impoverished, the middle class. It is a cross-current of our nation and the people who live here. There are the single, the married, the straight, the gay, the mentally ill, the young and the old. Porter is able to see deeply into the heart and culture of so many different types of lives. That is only one of the things that make this book remarkable. His style of writing is engrossing in every story in the collection. Usually, in a short story collection, one or two stories stand out. In this collection, every one is a winner; each one remains with you and takes a piece of your heart after you close the book.

'Hole' is the story of two boys who take money from an older brother to mow a lawn. During the mowing of the lawn, one of the boys falls down a hole and dies. The boy who survives spends much of his life thinking about the twists and turns of that day, trying to remember what really happened and what are figments of his memory.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on February 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
It's ironic--some of the best books I've read have titles that are scientific or mathematic in nature, although most of the time they have nothing to do with either subject. Add The Theory of Light and Matter to the list of best books I've read, as well as those with ironic titles. What a fantastic short story collection this was!! Andrew Porter is an absolutely phenomenal writer.

I've been reading a lot of short story collections lately, and while it appears I've gotten lucky in finding some great collections, there is not one clunker in this entire book. From the title story, which tells of a college student's not-quite infatuation with her much-older physics professor, to those that chronicle everything from realizing your parents have a far more complex relationship than you can imagine to the aftermath of a friend's death when you're younger, this book hit me on so many levels. Nearly every one of these stories could be expanded into a novel I'd love to read, and it's not often I can say that. If you're looking for a great book, look no further. And if you do read it, let me know so we can discuss it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Dawson on May 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Theory of Light and Matter, a collection of ten short stories, won last year's Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction, and it's a deserving winner. Porter's stories confront the everyday challenges of marriage and parenting and the difficulties of growing up. While exploring these ordinary themes in suburban settings, these stories reveal the subtle ebb and flow of relationships, the complexities of interacting that lie below the surfaces of normal lives, with insight and sensitivity.

Porter's casual prose gives his stories an aura of reality. Nothing is strained, and the dialog is convincing. Although casual, it's a studied casualness. The sentences are carefully crafted, the words conscientiously chosen, and everything is in its place. Although I sometimes wished for something apocalyptic to happen, that would've been out of character for these stories. These intelligent and well-crafted stories, though occasionally lacking in action, are a joy to read. The book, published by the University of Georgia Press, is beautifully designed. The understated and elegant look is the perfect complement to these stories.
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