Monday, 23 August 1999

O. Henry: Options (1905)

Edition: Doubleday, Moran & Co
Review number: 317

Options, O. Henry's sixth short story collection, marks a retreat from the experiments of Cabbages and Kings and Roads of Destiny. The stories in Options are all typical Henry, masterfully put together short stories perhaps a little sentimental for modern tastes. Unlike earlier collections, Options lacks any unifying themes. It contains stories set in each of the venues established as Henry's location in these earlier collections: the big city and the West of the United States, and South America. This diversity is reflected in the collection title.

Options is perhaps the most unsatisfactory of the collections published in Henry's lifetime, having the thrown together feel that characterised the ones made of stories not previously published in book form that appeared after his death. Its diversity does make it reasonably interesting to read through in one sitting, but I prefer the virtuosity apparent in the earlier collections where Henry continually finds new variation on a theme (most obviously in The Gentle Grafter).

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