347 The Prisoner and His Prize – The Story of O Henry (with Jenny Minton Quigley)

William Sidney Porter (1862-1910) packed a lot of life into his 47 years, traveling from a childhood in North Carolina to work as a rancher and bank teller in Texas to a desperate escape to Honduras, where he hoped to avoid federal prosecution for embezzlement. Eventually he spent three years in prison, where he began writing short stories under the name “O. Henry.” By the time he emerged he was nationally famous, and his subsequent years in New York City, where he wrote “The Gift of the Magi” among many other popular stories, were highly productive. After his death, his friends started a prize in his name, and today the annual prize – along with the volume of prizewinning short stories – has become a fixture on the American literary landscape.

In this episode, Series Editor Jenny Minton Quigley joins Jacke to discuss O. Henry and the prize in his name, which has been retooled for 2021. Jenny describes the fiction she and her colleagues reviewed, the state of the American short story, and the influence that this year’s guest editor, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, had on the finished product, The Best Short Stories 2021: The O. Henry Prize Winners.


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72 The Best Christmas Stories in Literature

Sure, we all know the story of Frosty and Rudolph… but what about literary Christmas stories? How have great authors treated (or mistreated) this celebrated holiday? Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke for a look at the ten best Christmas stories in literature. Authors discussed include Dostoevsky, Dickens, Willa Cather, Mark Twain, Ntozake Shange, Roderick Thorpe, Dr. Seuss, Thomas Mann, James Joyce, Hans Christian Andersen, Chekhov, O. Henry, and more. PLUS a special holiday tribute to Gar, the worst producer in the history of podcasting.

Show Notes:

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Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

(Also featuring cameo appearances by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sir Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Bing Crosby, Mariah Carey, Sir Elton John, Jimmy Stewart, and Frank Sinatra.)