I’m pleased to announce that the edition of O. Henry short stories I edited for the Library of America has been published and is available for purchase. The early reception has been good, with nice notices in The New Yorker and the Washington Post and an excellent starred review from Kirkus:
A treasure vault of work by a master of the short story form. . . . Yagoda’s well-selected anthology follows O. Henry through all his phases, from Texas bank clerk to fugitive (on account of embezzlement) in Honduras, federal prisoner, and, finally, reasonably successful New Yorker. The volume’s highlight, of course, is Henry’s best-known and much-loved story, ‘The Ransom of Red Chief,’ in which two con men kidnap a ‘boy of ten, with bas-relief freckles, and hair the colour of the cover of the magazine you buy at the news-stand when you want to catch a train,’ who makes their lives a bit of hell on Earth. Most of the stories, ‘Red Chief’ foremost among them, read as if freshly written. . . . The volume provides ample evidence for why one of American literature’s most eminent literary awards should be named for the author. Essential for students of the short story and for fans of Henry’s work.
Reading and evaluating all of O. Henry’s 350-plus works and tracking down every obscure reference for the end notes definitely were time-consuming, but the exercise was always painless and mainly enjoyable. That’s because O. Henry (born William Sidney Porter in 1862) was an excellent craftsman with a lot more tools in his box than the sentimentality and twist ending we know from his most famous story, “The Gift of the Magi.”
I’ll have more to say on this subject in the weeks ahead. So watch this space.