Andrew Porter Is Just As Curious About Salinger As the Rest of You

by |
02/18/2010 4:00 AM |

Andrew Porter is the author of the short story collection The Theory of Light and Matter, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and was recently republished in paperback by Vintage/Knopf. His fiction has appeared in One Story, Epoch The Pushcart Prize Anthology and on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” He currently teaches creative writing at Trinity University in San Antonio.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
One reviewer said, “These are fundamentally stories about the weight of memory.” And I think that’s pretty true.

What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
Listened to: Deerhoof’s Offend Maggie (a brilliant album)
Read: On Chesil Beach (a beautiful, nearly perfect short novel)
Eaten: Mumford’s Barbeque in Victoria, Texas (delicious brisket!)
Looked at: Street Fight (a fascinating documentary about Cory Booker’s 2002 campaign against Sharpe James for mayor of Newark)

Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
J.D. Salinger. (Okay, I guess he’s more of a “literary celebrity,” but who wouldn’t want to know what he’s been up to?)

Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
It depends on how you define “starving.” I went through a period of time in my early twenties when I lived off Power Bars and Top Ramen, largely because they were both cheap and both filling, and I was able to survive on a food budget of about five dollars a day. The Power Bars might have given me a small creative boost, but the MSG in the Top Ramen made me sleepy, so I think they pretty much canceled each other out. In other words, no, it didn’t make me brilliant, just malnourished.

What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Probably my favorite thing is when I receive a random email from a reader who has no connection to me at all, someone who is just writing to tell me that they enjoyed my book. Those emails make my day.

Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Yes. I once let a magazine publish a short story that I knew wasn’t finished. When the story appeared in print, I found it hard to even look at the magazine’s cover without wincing. It was strange, but it felt worse than if the story had never been published at all. Since then, I’ve never done that again.