September 25th, 2021
Home | Log in!

On Top Shelf
BAILED OUTBAILED OUT
Fresh Pick
NEVER SAW ME COMING
NEVER SAW ME COMING

New Books This Week

Latest Articles


Best reads for September

Slideshow image


Since your web browser does not support JavaScript, here is a non-JavaScript version of the image slideshow:

slideshow image
A sidesplitting, enemies-to-lovers 101 Dalmatians-inspired romantic comedy


slideshow image
Cowboys live by their word, their wits, and their loyalty.


slideshow image
How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?


slideshow image
Garrett will use every tender weapon to seduce her—and prove she’s worthy of true love.


slideshow image
The Albertini family has no intention of letting a possible romance fizzle out


slideshow image
Lady Mary's traveling companion has disappeared and only one man believes she ever existed.


O. Henry

O. Henry

O. Henry (1862 - 1910) was an American short story author whose real name was William Sydney Porter. Henry's rich canon of work reflected his wide-range of experiences and is distinctive for its witticism, clever wordplay, and unexpected twist endings.

Like many other writers, O. Henry's early career aspirations were unfocused and he wandered across different activities and professions before he finally found his calling as a short story writer. He started working in his uncle's drugstore in 1879 and became a licensed pharmacist by the age of 19. His first creative expressions came while working in the pharmacy where he would sketch the townspeople that frequented the store. The customers reacted warmly to his drawings and he was admired for his artistry and drawing skills.

O. Henry moved to Texas in March of 1882 hoping to get rid of a persistent cough that he had developed. While there, he took up residence on a sheep ranch, learned shepherding, cooking, babysitting, and bits of Spanish and German from the many migrant farmhands. He had an active social life in Austin and was a fine musician, skilled with the guitar and mandolin. Over the next several years, Porter -- as he was still known -- took a number of different jobs, from pharmacy to drafting, journalism, and banking.

Here's where the twists and turns really started. Banking, in particular, was not to be O. Henry's calling; he was quite careless with his bookkeeping, fired by the bank and charged with embezzlement in 1894. His father-in-law posted bail for him, but he fled the day before the trial in 1896, first to New Orleans, then to Honduras, where there was no extradition treaty. He befriended a notorious train robber there, Al Jennings, who later wrote a book about their friendship. O. Henry sent his wife and daughter back to Texas, after which he holed up in a hotel to write his first collection of short stories, Cabbages an Kings published in 1904. He learned his wife was dying of tuberculosis and could not join him in Honduras, so he returned to Austin and turned himself in to the court. His father-in-law again posted his bail so he could remain with his wife until her death in 1897. He was sentenced and served in Federal prison in Ohio for five years from 1989-1902. During his jail time, he returned to practicing pharmacy and had a room in the hospital, never having to live in a cell.

O. Henry was always a lover of classic literature, and while pursuing his many ventures, O. Henry had begun writing as a hobby. When he lost his banking position he moved to Houston in 1895 and started writing for the The Post, earning $25 per month (an average salary at this time in American history was probably about $300 a year). O. Henry collected ideas for his column by loitering in hotel lobbies and observing and talking to people there. He relied on this technique to gain creative inspiration throughout his writing career; which is a fun fact to keep in mind while reading an imaginative masterpiece of a story like Transients in Arcadia. The many twists and turns of his own life, including his travels in Latin America and time spent in prison, clearly inspired his stories' twists and wordplay.

O. Henry's prolific writing period began in 1902 in New York City, where he wrote 381 short stories. He wrote one story a week for The New York World Sunday Magazine for over a year. Some of his best and least known work is contained in Cabbages and Kings, whose title was inspired by Lewis Carroll's poem, The Walrus and the Carpenter. The stories were set in a midwestern American town in which sub-plots and larger plots are interwoven in an engaging manner. His second collection of stories, The Four Million, was released in 1906. The stories are set in New York City, and the title is based on the population of the city at that time. The collection contained several short story masterpieces, including The Gift of the Magi, The Cop and the Anthem, and many others. Henry had an obvious affection for New York City and its diversity of people and places, a reverence that rises up through many of his stories.

O. Henry's trademark is his witty, plot-twisting endings, and his warm characterization of the awkward and difficult situations and the creative ways people find to resolve them. His most famous short story, The Gift of the Magi, epitomizes his style. It's bout a young married couple, short on money, who wish to buy each other Christmas gifts. That problem -- their lack of funds -- finds a famously endearing and ironic resolution. The Cop and the Anthem is about A New York City hobo with a creative solution for dealing with the cold city streets during winter. Another story, A Retrieved Reformation, is about a safecracker, Jimmy Valentine, fresh from prison, whose life takes an unexpected turn while trying to come clean (or is he casing his next crime scene?) The Ransom of Red Chief, a story about two hapless kidnappers who snatch a heinous boy whose menacing ways turn the tables on them. All of O. Henry's stories are highly entertaining, whether read for pleasure or studied in classrooms around the world.

In 1952, Marilyn Monroe and Charles Laughton starred in O. Henry's Full House, a film featuring five of O. Henry's short stories. The film included The Cop and the AnthemThe Clarion CallThe Last Leaf, The Ransom of Red Chief (starring Fred Allen and Oscar Levant), and The Gift of the Magi.

Unfortunately, O. Henry's personal tragedy was heavy drinking. By 1908, his health had deteriorated and his writing dropped off accordingly. He died in 1910 of cirrhosis of the liver, complications of diabetes, and an enlarged heart. The funeral was held in New York City, but he was buried in North Carolina, the state where he was born. He was a gifted short story writer and left us a rich legacy of great stories to enjoy.

 

Log In to see more information about O. Henry
Log in or register now!

 

Series

Books:

O. Henry: 101 Stories (LOA #345), July 2021
Hardcover / e-Book

 

 

 

© 2003-2021 off-the-edge.net  all rights reserved Privacy Policy