The exact version of Stories by O. Henry I am reviewing, with its particular selection of stories, is now out of print and cannot be found even on Amazon.com. Nevertheless, what remarks can be made about a selection of Henry’s stories can be applied to his entire body of work. This volume featured twenty-three of his stories, including such notables as “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Cop and the Anthem.”
O. Henry (the pen name of William Sydney Porter) is known for his short stories primarily because of their surprise endings. However, in a collection like this one, where the reader knows to look for the twist, some endings can be predicted. Henry is also notable for his spectacular use of vocabulary (keep a dictionary handy). It’s often unrealistic that Henry’s characters know such grandiose words, but that doesn’t matter – Henry often uses this device for wordplay and humor, and it’s all in good fun. Henry’s writing is typically excellent. He covers the spectrum of society, often with some telling insights into the human condition.
Not all of O. Henry’s stories have held up over time, but he is certainly worth reading.