I have a bit of a thing for O. Henry short stories. I trace this to high school, where I always (always) had a book, and if I finished said-book halfway through the school day, I’d dodge into the library and pick up a volume of O. Henry to last me until I got home.
The funny thing about O. Henry is that he always (always) has a twist ending. But even when you know that, the stories and the twists are still fun. Since they’re short stories, not novels, there isn’t much time to drop hints, and even when I know a twist must be coming, I usually don’t spot exactly what it will be.
I just picked up a lovely set of O. Henry books at my library’s warehouse sale (come back for Saturday Snapshot tomorrow if you want to see them) so I have O. Henry on the brain. I thought I’d offer up a few my favorites today (no twists revealed).
“Springtime a la Carte” has one of the all time great openings: “It was a day in March. Never, never begin a story this way when you write one. No opening could be worse.” The story goes on about Sarah, a New York girl making her way as a typist, who fears her fiance has forgotten her–and who has been reduced to tears by the sight of dandelions on a menu.
“The Cop and the Anthem” is a tale about a New York homeless man (a bum, in the old style) who resolves to get himself arrested in the fall, so he’ll have somewhere warm to spend the winter. But try as he might, he just can’t seem to get picked up for anything!
“The Green Door” opens with a reflection on adventurers, and whether we each have the courage to pursue a strange circumstance if it confronts us. Hero Rudolf Steiner was “a true adventurer” who finds himself one day handed a card with the mysterious words “The Green Door.” And then–to pursue or not?
“The Last Leaf” is set in Greenwich Village, and focuses on roommates and artists Sue and Joanna. Sue is down with pneumonia, and is adamant that she’ll die when the last leaf falls from the vine outside her window–but somehow that leaf keeps holding on…
“The Mammon and the Archer” is about a rich business tycoon who is convinced that there’s nothing money can’t buy. His son disputes the claim; he wants to propose to his girl before she leaves for a trip to Europe, but there won’t be any opportunity. Fate (or is it a wealthy father?) steps in.
Ever read O. Henry? Any favorite stories? And do you find that you like it when you know a twist must be coming, or not?
3 thoughts on “Favorites Friday: O. Henry”
I’ve never heard of O. Henry before! I think we can perhaps blame that on the Atlantic divide.
I actually like knowing a twist is coming. That ‘wait for it…wait for it’ feeling of anticipation can be very suspenseful (e.g. the movie Sleeping With the Enemy). Though the occasional ‘I never saw that coming’ (e.g. the movie the Sixth Sense) is also entertaining!
I haven’t read much O’Henry, and it was long ago. I’ll have to add him to my list.
My personal favorite O. Henry story is “The Ransom of Red Chief,” wherein two men kidnap a wealthy man’s son and notify his father that they want him to pay a ransom to get his son back. Things don’t turn out exactly as they expect . . .O. Henry was truly the master of clever plot twists. His stories still hold up today, though they were written about 100 years ago!