Winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction

These ten stories take us across the country—from rural Pennsylvania to Southern California to suburban Connecticut—and deep into characters struggling to find meaning in their day-to-day lives. A young man reconstructs the memory of a friend’s deadly fall. A childless couple, craving the affection of an exchange student, fails to set the boundaries that would keep him safe. And in the title story, a college student looking for her soul mate confronts an impossible choice.

The Theory of Light and Matter is a stunningly astute vision of contemporary American suburbia, full of tension, heartbreak, and emotional complexity—the work of an important new voice.


             Hardcover                                           Australian Edition                              U.K. Edition


"A true master of the short story, a writer of honesty and plainspoken poetry who knows the human soul in all its light and shadow and harnesses every sentence to the purpose of revealing it."

—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The View from the Seventh Layer

“[A] luminous collection ... Porter's use of poetic yet plainspoken language and his thoughtful consideration of the fractured American family place his writing in direct dialogue with the work of John Cheever and Raymond Carver. But Porter is no mere student of these masters. As the 10 stories in this luminous collection demonstrate, Porter has his own compelling vision of human longing, loneliness and grief . . . Porter's "The Theory of Light and Matter" is a memorable debut that honors the history of the short story form while blazing a new trajectory all its own.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"I've known of Andrew Porter's genius for ten years. He's a born storyteller. Every page of The Theory of Light and Matter will change something in your life and refresh you . . . He makes his own space instantly and invites you in. Hats off!"

—Barry Hannah, author of Airships

“Andrew Porter’s fiction is thoughtful, lucid and highly controlled. It is especially striking for the strong consistency of vision that is achieved in every story. He has the kind of voice one can accept as universal—honest and grave, with transparency as its adornment.”

—Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gilead

“In a world where everything, including stories, seem to be moving so fast, reading Andrew Porter's book is like stopping to catch your breath - and remember. These stories are patient and rare, and, to my mind, permanent. This is the kind of book that you will keep taking off the shelf to read again and again because you want to re-capture what it felt like to read them for the first time.”

—Peter Orner, Author of Esther Stories

“[A] beautifully executed short story collection  . . . Porter pulls us through the looking glass into a world where adults suffer from failed careers or sexual confusion and their offspring are underachievers at best or, at worst, mentally “not right.” There’s a crisp economy to these stories that nicely underpins their offbeat narratives.”

Texas Monthly

“[An] impressive debut story collection . . . [Porter’s] characters' lives seem placid and idyllic on the surface. Yet underneath, they are roiled by secrets.  .  . Loss, sacrifice, choice and responsibility are some of the other themes tightly woven into this impressive debut.”

The Dallas Morning News

“In Andrew Porter's [collection], there is a wave-like movement in each story, a swelling toward the event and an ebbing toward the new future after the event . . . in some cases the event will lodge, like a splinter, in other's lives. Porter is in it for the backward glance; he believes we might actually be able, if we look hard enough and study small movements, to predict the future.”

The Los Angeles Times (“Discoveries” Selection)

“Lovely . . . There’s a certain slim-hipped, youthful masculinity to Andrew Porter’s 2008 debut . . . Porter delivers suburbia just exactly as you’ve experienced it, but with all the dark corners intact, and some of them even lit right up. Normal people, across America, struggling to discover the meaning in their everyday lives. His voice is even, often understated, so much so that at times, the sharp details he is able to illuminate come as a delightful surprise.”

January Magazine

“An accomplished and exciting debut by a young writer of considerable restraint and undeniable gifts.”

—The Sunday Star-Times (New Zealand)

“Porter’s stories unfold like literary origami—Porter pulls a corner and a whole segment is revealed. The Theory of Light and Matter does not sacrifice humanity for the cause of idiosyncrasy.”

Time Out Sydney

“Beautifully written . . .  I opened it, started to read, and never put it down.”

The Lakeland Times

“Extraordinarily beautiful and moving stories. The genius of The Theory of Light and Matter is Porter’s ability to express emotion with such rawness and realness.”

Media and Culture Journal (Australia)

“Porter’s stories compel the reader to examine the importance of reflection. We are given stories in which the lens is slightly obscured, the angel unnatural; stories in which the distance between event and the recounting of that event allows for the slowing of heartbeats, the return of breath, the calm surrender of grappling with an unchangeable past.”

—The Black Warrior Review

“An impressive collection . . . Porter casts doubt on his narrators, so you’re never sure whether their accounts can be trusted—this adds an imaginative dimension to the tales, as you fill in the gaps and things left unsaid yourself as you read.”

—Ruth Hunter, BookTime Editor, Bertrams (U.K.)

“In shining prose [Porter] investigates memory, how we look at mistakes, missed connections and opportunities, and seek to make clear stories out of the things we couldn’t see as they were happening. Each story is more beautiful, complex, and well-crafted than the one preceding it. I can’t wait for his next book.”

Skylight Books

“The truth and beauty of Porter’s words reverberates . . . so vividly detailed and achingly honest that it’s hard to believe they’re fiction.”

The Beacon

“A moving collection of debut short stories, Andrew Porter’s The Theory of Light and Matter is a sparse and astute look at modern suburban America, maintaining the tradition of Raymond Carver by shining a light on the frailties and heartbreak of everyday life.”

The Big Issue (UK)

“Wonderfully precise, elegant and ultimately heartbreaking stories . . . Porter’s fiction is emotionally acute, resonant and alive . . . His voice is delicate and elegant, and he sees things that other authors would miss. Reading him reminded me about why we read at all: to feel that there are stories out there that can make sense of our lives.”

—author Stuart Evers, Dirty/Realistic (UK)

“Quite extraordinary writing . . . While easy to read, these are deceptively penetrating descriptions of the human condition.”

Newcastle Herald (Australia)

“Controlled craftsmanship of a great talent.”

—VPRO Guide (The Netherlands)

“An impressive debut from a writer to watch.”

North & South (New Zealand)

“Andrew Porter has begun his dialogue with the world . . . Each story evokes a sense of grace that honors the human experience.”

Texas Books in Review

“10 beautiful stories . . . Porter writes in the tradition of the masters, but with the speed and intensity of a new generation.”

Yunomi (The Netherlands)

“Porter’s approach to the short story is surgical: brief and incisive.”

Critic (Australia)

“A brilliant collection of ten short stories with the themes of love, relationship, guilt and memory at their heart.”

—Jason Austin, Readings Monthly (Best Fiction of 2010)

“These stories [have] a very special power and strength.”

Bruna (The Netherlands)

“Porter knows how to let a story breathe.”

Het Parool (The Netherlands)

“[A] luminous collection ... Porter's use of poetic yet plainspoken language and his thoughtful consideration of the fractured American family place his writing in direct dialogue with the work of John Cheever and Raymond Carver. But Porter is no mere student of these masters. As the 10 stories in this luminous collection demonstrate, Porter has his own compelling vision of human longing, loneliness and grief. ... Porter's "The Theory of Light and Matter" is a memorable debut that honors the history of the short story form while blazing a new trajectory all its own.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A jewel . . . Ten unforgettable stories, both common and frightening.”

La Cause Litteraire (France)

“With The Theory of Light and Matter, Andrew Porter reveals a rare potential, that of a great novelist . . . In the tradition of Brett Easton Ellis and Raymond Carver . . . [he] is a writer who will soon be prominent.”

Fluctuat (France)

“Delicate [and] serenely depicted stories.”

Ti Story (Korea)

“A collection of beauty . . . Andrew Porter is undoubtedly a writer to watch.”

—Les Lectures de Ness (France)

“A singular voice at the forefront of the new American style.”

—Boox Magazine (France)

“Reading this collection is an endless cycle of diving headfirst interesting and intricately complex world . . . the character and settings are so vivd.”

Rookie Magazine

“Porter’s writing is perfect: simple, straightforward, elegant. A real treat for the mind.”

Les Livres d’Agathe (France)

“Flawless writing . . . a beautiful collection.”

—Moi, Clara et les Mots (France)

“[Porter] is a master storyteller, a creator of tender and hopeful characters, a writer who whispers rather than shouts. We look forward to hearing more from such an amazing talent . . . This collection deserves to be read and reread.”

The Christian Science Monitor

“[An] exquisite debut collection . . . [These] stories have a hard-won grit and imagination to spare.”

Time Out New York

“[A] fantastic collection of short stories.”

The Houston Chronicle

“A terrific collection.”

The London Times

“One of the ten best collections of short fiction for 2008.”

The Kansas City Star

“Andrew Porter is one of the best young American writers today.”

McNally Jackson Books

“One of America’s most compelling new short-fiction writers.”

The Independent (UK)

“Andrew Porter can achieve more in a handful of pages than most writers can in a hundred. I’ve read most of the stories in this collection two and three times, and I continue to marvel at how they can be so spare and rich at the same time. My favorite book of the year.”

—Billy Taylor, The San Antonio Express-News (Best Books of 2008)

“Moving . . . These ten stories are full of wisdom and deep sadness. Through Porter's beautiful and restrained prose, they accumulate power slowly and deceptively until they become difficult to shake.    Like the best writers of childhood, Porter understands that these are fundamentally stories about the weight of memory. . . [They] cut to the emotional quick of human experience with stunning compression.”

The American Book Review

“Andrew Porter is the real storytelling deal. This ten-story collection won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and it’s not hard to see why. Porter performs conjuring tricks with time and perspective that less accomplished writer would never get away with . . . I loved this collection.”

Insights Magazine (Australia)

“Heralded by critical praise . . . Porter’s tales are brimming with characters both likable and bewilderingly human. We see in them our own flaws and shortcomings and desires. These are quintessentially stories about the desire for redemption, the search for meaning, and the need for human contact . . . Porter does a fantastic job of recreating these entrancing confluences of lives.”  (A Critics Pick)

The San Antonio Current

“In Porter’s debut story collection, he casts an unflinching, psychological eye on modern suburban life, its failed and revised dreams, and the madness and illness that can chip away at families and relationships.”

Poets & Writers Magazine

“Stunning meditations on loss and remembrance . . . Porter crafts stories of disparate lives . . . in an evocative, straightforward prose style reminiscent of Raymond Carver.”

The Daily Beast (“Hot Reads” Pick)

“Readers who enjoy the classic American short story, served up with a side order of edgy intensity, will reap the rewards. Porter’s stories are sparse but powerful.”

—Ricky Kleffel, The Agony Column

“A sensual pleasure . . .  moving [and] profound”

The Arkansas Review

“An impressive collection . . . Porter [has] a restrained prose style reminiscent of craftsmen like Richard Ford and Tobias Wolff . . . [A] writer whose work seems destined to attract an appreciative following”

—Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf-Awareness

“Like Raymond Carver, like Richard Ford, in just a few short stories Andrew Porter made it clear to me he would be one of those rare writers who’s work I will hunt down for as long as he’s alive and writing.”

—Nick Earls, author of After January

“In this collection, every story is a winner, each one remains with you and takes a piece of your heart after you close the book . . . I found myself completely immersed whether I was in Texas, Connecticut, or traveling on a plane. I was inside the stories, inside the characters themselves—of them. I loved this book.”

Mostly Fiction Book Reviews

“Every story in the debut from Andrew Porter, The Theory of Light and Matter, surprised and seduced me as a reader. He has a crisp, clean, evocative style and a way with clever endings that reminds me of Raymond Carver.”

—Jo Case, Readings Monthly

“[Porter’s] voice is pitch-perfect . . . earnest but focused, honest, and deeply profound.”

Water Street Books

“[A] natural born talent . . . a writer for our times”

The Sydney Morning Herald

“Let me join the chorus of praise for this debut collection of ten well-crafted and timeless stories . . . reading Porter is like falling into a whole other world. Highly recommended.”

South Coast Register

“This debut collection of stories introduces a new and distinctive voice in American fiction . . . Porter has a unique and quietly heartbreaking range . . . [He] has his own voice, his own style and one that suits these stories perfectly. Even if you usually wouldn’t consider a collection of short stories, you really need to read The Theory of Light and Matter.”

BookTrust (UK)

“Comparisons have been made to Cheever and Carver before him, but it is clear that Porter has developed his own very distinctive prose style, poetic yet curiously spare and restrained at the same time, which perfectly suits the dichotomy he creates between the placid veneer of his characters lives and the emotional complexity . . . lurking beneath.”

The London Review Bookshop (U.K.)

“A superb collection of stories. All written in the first person, Porter use that unreliable lens to provide an intimate exploration of a half-remembered suburban America . . . Porter’s fiction is without exception exquisitely crafted; the voices credible and unadorned.”

The Age (Australia)

“Ten wonderful stories . . . Porter, creator of tender and hopeful characters, whispers little moments of truth that may go unnoticed in the clamour of life—don’t let them pass you unheard.”

The Malaysia Star (Malaysia)

“These are, in every sense, well-made stories—beautifully paced, full of lovely sentences that you’ll want to read aloud just for the pleasure of it. But Porter’s technique is not a substitute for emotional depth or story . . . Their surface beauty leads us deeper, toward hidden and surprising truths.”

Fiction Writers Review

“Porter’s spare, unadorned use of language moves each page and story effortlessly, one after the other . . . Without realizing it, you’ve finished the book and immediately as though you’ve read a collection of secrets: complex yet relatable stories fraught with themes of loss, guilt [and] human longing.”

San Antonio Current

“A worthy successor to Raymond Carver and Richard Ford.  Like his glorious predecessors, Porter has an ability to grasp with infinite grace and talent the ordinary moments of our lives and draw “literary Polaroids full of poetry and sensitivity. The ten stories gathered here are all jewels.”

—Les Buveurs D’Encre (France)

“Porter follows the Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor’s usage of raw and plainspoken language . . . [and] like Carver, Porter focuses on people’s internal weaknesses and how past memories of disappointment and regret become a burden.”

The Poly Post

“[Porter’s] works ascends to a refreshing illumination of our secret thoughts and desires . . . there is a great deal of nourishment to be found in [this] moving collection.”

Islet (Australia)

“Porter’s writing is controlled, direct, gentle and empathetic . . . a very endearing book.”

—Courrier International (France)

“A great pleasure to read . . . Andrew Porter reveals those vulnerabilities that are found in all of us.”

La Merle Moqueur (France)

“Moving, original, and unforgettable, this is a must-own collection.”

—The Strand

“A work of unadorned beauty. . . Porter’s collection draws immediate comparison to the work of Raymond Carver . . .  Like Carver, Porter is expert in understanding the weak threads that hold together broken families and the way people suppress their disappointments and experience epiphanies far too late to make a difference.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (A Noteworthy Paperback)

“[A] beautifully executed short story collection  . . . Porter pulls us through the looking glass into a world where adults suffer from failed careers or sexual confusion and their offspring are underachievers at best or, at worst, mentally “not right.” There’s a crisp economy to these stories that nicely underpins their offbeat narratives.”

Texas Monthly

“This collection reveals an extraordinarily talented writer. The term ‘beautiful writing’ is used too freely, but it really does apply here. Unlike many writers who have a love of language, Porter avoids long descriptive passages or the use of arcane words. In the long American tradition traced from Hemingway through Sam Shephard, Raymond Carver and Richard Ford, Porter uses words with great economy. That he does this without any of the heroic machismo of that tradition makes him truly a writer for our times.”

Sydney Morning Herald

“A remarkable collection . . . Porter’s clear, spare stories about loss, betrayal and failure are wistful and wise . . . again and again, he makes these stories seem like something we should know, and should want to know . . . Whatever these people are telling us about, in their deceptively simple way, we’re with them, willing them along, interested to hear and saddened to know. It takes a rare sort of artistry to establish such a bond.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Wonderful . . . [a writer] of exceptional vision and voice.”


“Delicately lovely tales . . . Porter’s spare, lean voice deftly captures the rhythms of recollection, with the tranquil resignation of recounting what has already happened cloaking the latent emotions left roiling underneath . . . Rendered with sensitivity and depth. This new author deserves some attention.”

San Francisco Book Review

“Like taking a sip of the clearest mountain spring water . . . With clear, strong prose marked by devious underpinnings, Porter’s style is straightforward, his characters careful narrators treading above a murky pool.”


“Beautiful stories . . . safe and menacing at the same time.”

The Boston Globe

“Porter chronicles suburbia in these timeless, well-crafted stories, and this collection stands out as one of the year's most unforgettable works of fiction.”

—David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy

“It’s easy to understand why Andrew Porter won the Flannery O’Connor Award: He deserves it. The stories in his collection The Theory of Light and Matter are exceptional.”

Real Change News

“The clear, understated style in which Porter writes about his characters makes their fates all the more poignant.”

ELLE Magazine (The Netherlands)

“Ten remarkable stories . . . Porter’s prose is clear and unadorned, and impresses the reader with its apparent openness. Through the variable lens of memory, each narrator struggles to get his (occasionally, her) story straight and, in doing so, some version of the truth is revealed . . . The Theory of Light and Matter is a a wonderful introduction to Andrew Porter’s fiction.”

— Carol Reid, The Short Review

“An evocative first book . . . Porter displays his unique talent for showing that forsythia-filled suburban front yards are not at all what they seem. [His] prose continually lulls the reader into the muggy landscape of faraway memory, back to a place in which the roots of a later tragedy were first born.”

Gulf Coast

“[A] superbly written collection of short stories . . . Porter is a gifted storyteller.”

Collegiate Times

“Beautifully and wisely [written] . . . [These] stories take the reader on journeys to rural Amish country, suburban neighborhoods and a cottage in New England. Each time, the reader is delightfully welcomed into the action and sated with rich description and sharp looks at interpersonal relationships . . . The 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction . . . could not have been bestowed upon a more deserving work.”

The Collegian

“Classically written tales . . . a mature and stirring collection.”

—The Sunday Star-Times (New Zealand)

“Andrew Porter writes with the voice of an older storyteller . . . [These] tales seem almost timeless.”

Smile Politely: Champaign-Urbana’s Online Magazine

“Porter gets at what it is to be human.”

Mason County News

“Porter weaves a web of beautiful, quiet stories.”

—The Observant

“Porter is an accomplished storyteller and his ability to pierce right at the heart of ordinary people’s fears and desires leaves the reader wanting more.”

—Emily Laidlaw, Readings (Australia)

“Andrew Porter is a bright young thing to watch . . . his first collection, The Theory of Light and Matter, comprises ten beautiful, deft, touching and memorable stories . . . This is a highly accomplished debut from a writer you’re going to want to keep an eye on; they’re accessible and resonant stories that’ll stay with you. Read it, read, read it—and wait excitedly for what’s coming next.

—Valerie O’Riordan, BookMunch (UK)

“Porter’s quiet, mesmerizing skill ensures that his protagonists are powerfully inhabitable,

the susurrus of history bridling under their skins.”

—Estelle Lang, Kill Your Darlings (Australia)

“What is striking is the delicacy, the sensitivity of Porter’s writing . . . It’s soft and serious at once. A quiet meditation on our society.”

Radio France (France)

“Theses short stories are expertly crafted, slow-burning heartstring tuggers of American domestic life.”

Dazed and Confused (UK)

“A masterpiece . . . impeccably written.”

Direction Fiction (France)

“Following the tradition of Carver, Andrew Porter writes with an intensity and uncommon sense of observation. A stunning book, whose every phrase, every situation, touches the reader.”

Librarie de Paris (France)

“Porter is a master . . . a remarkable first collection.”

Sud Ouest (France)

“Each of the ten stories in this debut collection is unique and highly accomplished. The writing is seamless, but Porter’s strength is characterization. He enters the head space of characters of different ages, perspectives and lifestyles, and portrays them with gentleness and empathy.”

The Big Issue(Australia)

”Porter takes us into the complexity of his characters’ emotions with consummate skill. A collection where every story is a gem.”

Mots et Cie (France)

“Andrew Porter shines in his debut The Theory of Light and Matter . . . All ten stories are compelling and distinctive . . . written in a clear and beautiful style.”

Cultuur Bewust (The Netherlands)

“Mature and compelling . . . a talented writer.”

Leeuwarder Courant (The Netherlands)

“The stories in Andrew Porter’s The Theory of Light and Matter demonstrate a complexity and emotional honesty that resonates”

—Vincent Ruvalcaba, Suite 101

“These stories are told with stunning accuracy.”

—L’Avenir (France)

The Theory of Light and Matter goes beyond storytelling. It shares stories, giving readers the impression that they are not merely reading, but also experiencing and learning.”

The Briar Cliff Review

• Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, Winner

• Foreword Book of the Year Award (Short Fiction), Winner

• Drake Emerging Writer Award, Winner

Kansas City Star’s Top Ten Short Story Collections of 2008

San Antonio Express-News’ Best Books of 2008

  1. Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, Longlist

  2. William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, Shortlist

• Steven Turner First Book Award, Finalist

• The Paterson Book Prize, Finalist

• Writers League of Texas Best Book of 2008, Finalist

the theory of light and matter

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