Exploring memory in ‘The Theory of Light and Matter’

By Andrea Waitrovich

The Theory of Light and Matter Andrew

Released: Jan. 5, 2009Rating: 4 out of 4

A younger brother wonders if he should hate his older brother
for the inexcusable behavior he afflicts on others.

A son witnesses his mother’s growing affection for a married
woman while his father is away.

A woman recounts the advancements of her much older physics
professor who she partially fell in love with.

Ordinary people living in places from rural Pennsylvania to the
suburbs of Los Angeles are the voices of Andrew Porter’s award
winning fictional short stories collection “The Theory of Light and

Most of Porter’s stories are entirely imaginative but were
sparked by a personal observation he had, from past acquaintances
to an event.

Lancaster, Penn., which is the heart of the Amish community, was
the setting in Porter’s “Departure,” a tale about two teenage boys
who would go to a diner near the K-Mart to observe the Amish

“I used to go to this arcade in a strip mall, and these Amish
kids would show up in street clothes and play Pac-Man,” said Porter
in a San Antonio Express News interview.

“I knew behind this image there was something important to me
that I didn’t understand.”

The main component to Porter’s stories is not the plot but the
characters’ emotional response to their own lives.

There is no initial message but the male/female, young/old and
homosexuals/heterosexuals protagonists looking back on a past

A feeling of sympathy is felt for his protagonists because of
how lost and emotionally broken they are to the pain of loving
someone and themselves.

In the first story, “Hole,” a young man reflects on the
disappearance of a childhood friend.

The narrator is reconstructing ghosts to understand what
happened on that hot summer day.

Why does his friend turn around when they were a few houses away
from jumping in a nice cool pool?

The reader is lusting as much as the narrator to know the answer
as well, but in reality it will never be known.

His book has earned him comparisons to such writers as Raymond
Carver, John Cheever and Richard Ford.

Like Carver, Porter focuses on people’s internal weakness and
how past memories of disappointment and regret become a burden.

Each narrator wants to rediscover a hidden truth but it is too
late to make a difference.

Guilt is a major theme in these stories because they all focus
on a specific event told by the same character, only years

Their past affects their present.

By using first-person, Porter becomes his characters by
interpreting their feelings, which engages the reader

The reader learns about their early childhood and their
relationship with their parents or partners.

It peels their layers and what they are is revealed.

Porter follows the Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor’s usage of
raw and plainspoken language.

His tales are not filled with over imaginative images but a
straightforward storytelling format to present the struggle each
character is feeling.

Reach Andrea Waitrovich at:

Exploring memory in


Exploring memory in ‘The Theory of Light and Matter’

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