Saturday, August 15, 2015

500 (2015 #57). The Gift of the Magi, and Other [Short] Stories

by O. Henry

I had planned to read my personal copy of a collection of O. Henry's short stories for the Hood County Library adult summer reading challenge (the Dover Thrift Edition with the word "Short" added to the title, pictured above right).  It had two of my old familiar favorites in it, the famous "The Gift of the Magi" of the title, and the equally (I thought) famous and funny "The Ransom of Red Chief," plus 14 other tales I hadn't read before.

I've been trying, when possible, to choose books for the challenge that the Hood County Library owns.  They do have a collection of O. Henry's short stories, the one pictured above left.  It had 29 tales, but only five overlapped (and surprisingly, one of those was not "The Ransom of Red Chief."  I decided to read both books, 40 short stories in all.

O. Henry (aka William Sidney Porter) is known for endings with a twist, and these did not disappoint.  Many are funny, but a few are serious.  Most of the stories are set in New York City, where the author spent the last eight years (1902-1910) of his too-short life.  My favorite stories are the ones set in Texas, where he lived from 1882 (when he was 20) to 1897, starting at a sheep ranch in South Texas, and eventually moving to Austin (where he worked as a pharmacist, then as a draftsman for the state's General Land Office, and finally as a bank teller for the First National Bank) and then Houston (where he wrote for the Houston Post newspaper).

The Texas-set stories in these books include "The Enchanted Kiss," set in San Antonio; "The Lonesome Road," which mentions Aransas Pass and the Nueces River in south Texas; and "The Pimienta Pancakes" (in the Dover edition only), which mentions the Frio and Nueces rivers and San Miguel Creek, all of which join up around Choke Canyon Reservoir near Three Rivers in South Texas.

Other stories I particularly enjoyed were "The Third Ingredient,"  "The Furnished Room," and the long but satisfying "The Roads of Destiny," all in the longer book.  However, the Dover edition (besides having "The Ransom of Red Chief") provided the name and date of the collection the story was first published in, which at least gave me a relative idea of when it was written.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The longer book was borrowed from and returned to the Hood County Library.  I already owned the shorter Dover Thrift Edition, and plan to keep it.]

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