I remember reading a couple of O. Henry short stories back when I was in middle school. They are perfect for teaching irony, short verse, etc – English teachers must love them. I thought the stories we read were fantastic, and I had always wanted to read more. So fast forward to 4 years ago, when I added O. Henry to my Classics Club list… and now I’ve finally finished a collection of his short stories.
There are 45 stories collected here, along with a timeline, a short introduction to his life, and end notes. I wasn’t paying very close attention, but I *think* they are in sort of chronological order as well. They first bunch of stories are set in New York and are shorter… a few pages each. Toward the middle of the book, the stories are longer and are set in the West. At the very end, we come back to New York and shorter stories again. I have to admit, that I enjoyed the NY stories more, but there were a few westerns I liked too. “Madame Bo-Peep, of the Ranches” is actually quite sweet.
Other favorites were “Mammon and the Archer”, “After Twenty Years”, “The Memento”, “The Princess and the Puma”, “Brickdust Row”, “The Renaissance at Charleroi”, and “Tobin’s Palm”. Oh, and “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Last Leaf” as well of course. I’d love to get into each of these stories, but the problem with short stories is that – they are short and usually have a twist ending and I don’t want to give anything away! I was disappointed to realize that this collection does not include “The Ransom of Red Chief”, so I’ll have to find that elsewhere. The story “The Social Triangle” includes one of the best character names ever – Ikey Snigglefritz. Isn’t that great?
I did find this a little difficult to read all at once. I did take a break for a bit for another book, and then came back. It just gets to be a little much after awhile, you know? They really are quite clever and entertaining. It is easy to see how they were published in magazines originally – it is kind of the perfect medium.
Selected Stories of O. Henry
by O. Henry
Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003. Stories originally published 1906-1917.
Source: Purchased New