A hundred years ago today, William Sydney Porter died. He was better known by his pen name: O. Henry. He was one of my mother’s favorite writers. I have a copy of the Modern Library edition of The Best Short Stories of O. Henry with her maiden name written on the first page.
Every American should read “The Gift of the Magi,” if only for the sake of cultural literacy. Other first-rate O. Henry stories include “The Last Leaf” (a poignant story about a painter), “The Furnished Room” (a ghostly tale), and “The Ransom of Red Chief” (a humorous yarn that my kids enjoyed when I read it to them a few weeks ago). Each includes a trademark “twist at the end” and all are frequently anthologized. Here’s a good one that’s not: “The Door of Unrest,” in which a newspaper editor meets an old guy who claims to be the Wandering Jew of legend.