Found this teeny book at a thrift store and I’m happy to add it to my personal collection. There could be a handful of O. Henry stories tucked into “best of” collections throughout my library, but I am proud to make this the first exclusive collection and I shall treasure the thin volume forever. I remember reading the headliner, The Gift of the Magi in school. It’s so sweet and wistful and romantically tragic, like a non-fatal Romeo and Juliet. My favorite story was The Last Leaf. I anticipated a Twilight Zone, Bradbury-style ending, so the very human, touching surprise nearly brought me to tears.
I faintly remembered the “O” standing for “Orrin” and knew the name to be a pen name, but I hadn’t recalled the author’s turbulent, tragic life. I can see how literary wonks view him as a kind of folk anti-hero, a genius uncalibrated for the cruelties of this world, and I am glad his name has been immortalized in the most prestigious short story award of our time. Were I to count, I probably own (and have read) more O. Henry award winning stories than O. Henry stories, a travesty I am delighted to have made a dent in correcting in the consumption of this book.