O'Henry was a great American short story writer. Of that much I have always been certain, because I am sure I have read it in a hundred books. I have even read a few of his stories, written in very early 1900's, but I probably did so under duress as part of a school assignment, and I must say, they didn't change my life. They sank, unremarked, into the morass which was already sufficiently filled with chemistry, social studies and a myriad other subjects that they made barely a ripple in passing.
So, it was with little more interest than passing the time that I picked up a short book of O'Henry's short stories and started reading. The one I am sure I have read before, "The Gift of the Magi", was in there right at the beginning, but so were many others. I was captivated. Seriously, if you haven't read O'Henry since school, you should give these stories a try.
But while I have read lots of short stories, a literary form of which I am fond and even dabble in myself a bit, I was still struck by a certain familiarity about the writing style. The stories were poignant or clever, and often had a twist at the end, but they were also short and "pithy", I think my Grandmother would have said. In fact, they felt a bit like reading one of the better blogs of today. O'Henry, whose real name was William Sydney Porter, wrote for a magazine, one story a week for several years. The stories, wonderfully clever and captivating, nonetheless have a "tossed off" feel, as if they were typed into a computer in the last half hour after dinner but before the kids had to get put to bed. There are even ironic comments back to the author, where he writes a sentence and then says "An author should never start with such a thought" or that sort of comment.
OK, I might be crazy, but try for yourself. Read a few O'Henry stories and let me know what you think. There are a bunch on this O'Henry page
, so you don't even need to go out and buy or borrow or steal a book. And now, having stolen away for a few minutes before dinner and long before the kids are likely to go to bed, I must go myself.
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