The O. Henry Prize Stories for 2017 have officially been announced. For those who enjoy the art form of the short story, you’re sure to find something you’ll like from this year’s list by clicking here.
“The O. Henry Award is an annual American award given to short stories of exceptional merit. The award is named after the American short story writer, O. Henry. The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories is an annual collection of the year’s twenty best stories published in U.S. and Canadian magazines, written in English.”
Born William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), but better known by his most famous pen name, O. Henry, Porter wrote a boatload of short stories in his day. Among his most well-known works are “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Caballero’s Way.”
While writers like Anton Chekhov and Alice Munro are probably more respected as geniuses of the genre, O. Henry certainly earned his own place in the pantheon of short story authors.
If you want to read some of O. Henry’s goldenest golden nuggets, check out Project Gutenberg, where you can download 19 of his stories for free.
“There is a limit to the amount of misery and disarray you will put up with, for love, just as there is a limit to the amount of mess you can stand around a house. You can’t know the limit beforehand, but you will know when you’ve reached it. I believe this.”
Alice Munro, “Bardon Bus”
Canada’s first Nobel Prize in Literature Laureate, this Quote of the Day comes from the sixth story, “Bardon Bus,” in Ms. Munro’s fifth book, The Moons of Jupiter (1982). Often referred to as the “Master of the Short Story” and the “Chekov of Our Times,” Alice Munro is without doubt a titan in modern literature.
Personally, what’s always struck me about her prose is how clean, simple and poignant it is. Whereas authors like Michael Ondaatje and Irvine Welsh seem to effortlessly turn the English language on its head – and still succeed as novelists that make each unique in their own way – Alice Munro is like a carpenter, electrician and contractor all rolled into one; she can take what at first glance appears to be basic building blocks, and with practiced grace takes a literary hole in the ground only to transform it into a remarkable house, a home that is at once new and glorious, yet vaguely familiar and comfortable.
Sadly, Alice Munro, like her contemporary Philip Roth, announced her “retirement” from writing four years ago. But, just as with Mr. Roth, the rumour mill abounds with speculation that she will pick up her quill and quire once again and we will all be blessed with more literary genius from a literary genius.
Not only is The Great American Novel my favourite Philip Roth novel, but it’s without doubt one of the funniest and most satirically biting stories I’ve ever read. You don’t even have to like baseball (the backdrop to the story) to appreciate the plot; you’ll be too busy wiping away your tears of nitrous oxide-induced laughter to care about “Who’s on First?”
The year is 1943. America is deep into the Second World War, but the country’s pastime must go on! Thus is borne the Patriot League (a fictional baseball league in the U.S.) as a nationwide communist conspiracy attempts to erase its history because it’s become a fully open communist organization.
Roth, who like Alice Munro has “retired” from writing, may have published this book in 1973, and it may be set over 70 years ago, but its message still rings true today. Furthermore and therefore moreover, it’s still a great read all these decades on.
As proof positive of said claim, savour this passage:
“America?” said Gamesh, smiling. “Roland, what’s American to you? Or me, or those tens of thousands up in the stands? It’s just a word they use to keep your nose to the grindstone and your toes to the line. America is the opiate of the people.”
Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2000, The Blind Assassin may be Margaret Atwood’s most famous novel on the international stage, but it’s by no means her only literary success in a career that has spanned more than half a century. Novelist, short story writer, businesswoman, mentor, environmentalist – there’s apparently nothing Ms. Atwood can’t do. Today, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Alice Munro form the triumvirate of Canadian literary royalty.
Here’s a snippet of writing gold from her award-winning novel:
“But thoughtless ingratitude is the armour of the young; without it, how would they ever get through life?…Without the protection of surliness and levity, all children would be crushed by the past – the past of others, loaded onto their shoulders. Selfishness is their saving grace.”