THE HEART OF O. HENRY by Dale Kramer


Email this review


With his varied writing career climaxed by the biographical study Ross and The New Yorker, Dale Kramer has set a definitely agile hand to the life of Will Porter telling his story with such a close regard for action and feeling that it often reads like an exciting novel. Almost constantly with O. Henry- there are few reflective passages in the book-Kramer begins with Will at 19, a druggist's son in Greensboro, North Carolin in 1882- picturing him as he listens to the backroom conversation about the Civil War, as he is despondent, shy or sardonic in turn, and as he decides to go away for his health to Texas where he spent the next 15 years. There to meet his first wife. Athol, Will spent the intervening years on a friend's ranch near Austin and if he made a poor cowboy he was a fine observer and gradually though hesitantly set to writing. Marriage to Athol was quickly love-born and in its first years sustained by a childlike clinging to each other. But the turn of events their lives took was rocky- for where Athol encouraged passionately and domineeringly, Will lacked confidence and drive to the point where his easy going nature clashed with her energy in tantrums and jealous accusations. Her bitterness marred the start of his newspaper The Rolling Stone and though forgiving, Will had his weaknesses too and was not man enough to face the charges of theft at a bank where he had worked. He went south before he was able to return to Athol just before her death and to prison just after it. New York and the decade Will took, as ""O. Henry"", to create his beloved Bagdad-on-the-Subway, followed. Perhaps at his best describing the city O. Henry knew, Kramer brings the past to life remarkably well in scenes, in conversations, in the tragedy of alcohol, and the closer-to-life illogic of the stories that were the heart and art of O. Henry. A positive contribution to the annals of American literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1954
Publisher: Rinehart