The creator of a good story, writer William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), born in Greensboro, North Carolina, was better known as "the master of the short story," O. Henry. As a child, his sister, Evelina, would begin a story and have him come up with an ending.
He moved to Texas in 1882 and his early jobs as a pharmacist, ranch hand, and bank teller inspired the creation of his poor, working-class characters.
"Life is made of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating," he wrote.
His stories are known for their 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. 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.
Curl up with a good book...