The Theory of Light & Matter


I read Andrew Porter’s Flannery O’Connor award-winning collection The Theory of Light & Matter over a month ago and I thought I didn’t like it. I was wrong. Today, I fished the book out from the pile that surrounds my bed because I was determined to write about it.

As I flipped through the pages reading paragraphs from various stories I found myself thinking, “oh I really liked this one,” “this one is my favorite.” It was right about then I realized that I really only disliked one story and was sort of on the fence about a few others. But the beauty of stories like “Merkin,” “River Dog,” and “Skin” should have more that made up for any of the others. I am a fickle reader and what I remember most is disliking the story “Theory of Light and Matter” and therefore dismissing the rest out of pocket.

Bad reader! Shame on me.

Porter’s collection really is beautiful filled with fractured families struggling with life in suburbia. What I like so much about so many of these stories is that his narrators are really trying — trying to care, trying to do what they think is best, and often times failing miserably. What I like so much about this collection is that he puts ordinary people in situations that seem so real and yet are kind of extraordinary.

I don’t think this is the kind of collection that will blow you away with literary pyrotechnics, but will win you over with its quiet charm.

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