The creator of a good story, writer William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), was born on this day in Greensboro, North Carolina, is better known as "the master of the short story," O. Henry. His early jobs as a pharmacist, ranch hand, and bank teller inspired the creation of his poor, working-class characters.
"A good story is like a bitter pill, with the sugar coating inside of it," he said.
His stories celebrate sentimentality and ironic twists. An economical writer, O. Henry set the stage for his characters immediately in a tightly-constructed plot, then he moved quickly from introduction to surprise ending.
In one of his most popular tales, The Gift of the Magi, a story about true love and the true spirit of giving, O. Henry used a folksy narrator to tell the tale of Della and Jim Young.
Both sacrifice their most precious belonging to buy each other a Yuletide gift. Della cuts her glorious hair to buy Jim a watch chain for the heirloom watch he has hocked to buy Della combs for her long hair. Classic O. Henry, with a witty, satisfying surprise finale.
Pulitzer Prize winner William Saroyan wrote in 1960, "The people of America loved O. Henry... He was a nobody, but he was a nobody who also was a somebody, everybody's somebody."
As a skilled and inventive writer, O. Henry created over 300 short stories. In 1918, The O. Henry Awards was first complied as "a monument to O. Henry's genius." Through the years, award winners have included William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullerss, and many others. This annual collection continues to honor the best stories published in American and Canadian magazines.
Life is made up of sniffles... and surprises and wonders.