In a previous post I mentioned that Greensboro was home of O. Henry. A hotel and a boulevard here are named after him, as well as countless schools across the states. The man is often said to be America’s best short story writer, and even if you don’t recognize the titles of his works, you probably know “The Gift of the Magi” in passing. It’s the story where the wife sells her hair to buy her husband a watch fob, but the husband sells his watch to buy his wife a comb. Most of Henry’s stories have twist endings, and today’s O. Henry Award is pretty prestigious.
Here’s what really tickles me about the guy: O. Henry used a pen name because he embezzled money from a bank. He ran away from the charges for a time, but was eventually jailed. His real name was William Porter, and when he sent out stories for publication he thought that if anyone knew his real name it would end his career. Thus he invented his famous pseudonym. And also: my favorite O. Henry story has always been “A Retrieved Reformation.” It’s about a safe cracker trying to go legit, and though it isn’t as famous as “The Ransom of Red Chief” or “The Cop and the Anthem,” in retrospect it’s probably a bit autobiographical. Check it out!
–Jeff and Leah