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O'Henry, now there was a blogger

Fri 11 Nov 2005, 05:58 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
O'Henry was a great American short story writer.  Of that much I have always been certain, because I am sure I have read it in a hundred books.  I have even read a few of his stories, written in very early 1900's, but I probably did so under duress as part of a school assignment, and I must say, they didn't change my life.  They sank, unremarked, into the morass which was already sufficiently filled with chemistry, social studies and a myriad other subjects that they made barely a ripple in passing.

So, it was with little more interest than passing the time that I picked up a short book of O'Henry's short stories and started reading.  The one I am sure I have read before, "The Gift of the Magi", was in there right at the beginning, but so were many others.  I was captivated.  Seriously, if you haven't read O'Henry since school, you should give these stories a try.

But while I have read lots of short stories, a literary form of which I am fond and even dabble in myself a bit, I was still struck by a certain familiarity about the writing style.  The stories were poignant or clever, and often had a twist at the end, but they were also short and "pithy", I think my Grandmother would have said.  In fact, they felt a bit like reading one of the better blogs of today.  O'Henry, whose real name was William Sydney Porter, wrote for a magazine, one story a week for several years.  The stories, wonderfully clever and captivating, nonetheless have a "tossed off" feel, as if they were typed into a computer in the last half hour after dinner but before the kids had to get put to bed.  There are even ironic comments back to the author, where he writes a sentence and then says "An author should never start with such a thought" or that sort of comment.

OK, I might be crazy, but try for yourself.  Read a few O'Henry stories and let me know what you think.  There are a bunch on this O'Henry page, so you don't even need to go out and buy or borrow or steal a book.  And now, having stolen away for a few minutes before dinner and long before the kids are likely to go to bed, I must go myself.

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