The History of Literature #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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History of Literature #72 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.


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The History of Literature Episode 60 – Great Literary Endings

Everyone always talks about the greatest openings in the history of literature – I’m looking at you, Call me Ishmael – but what about endings? Aren’t those just as important? What are the different ways to end short stories and novels? Which endings work well and why? In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at great literary endings, with some assistance from David Lodge, Charles Baxter, Leo Tolstoy, James Joyce, Flannery O’Connor, Samuel Beckett, Iris Murdoch, Uncle Wiggily, The Third Man, Donald Barthelme, Alice Munro, Henry James, E.B. White, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Shelley, David Foster Wallace, O. Henry, Ian McEwan, Thomas Mann, and Joseph Conrad.


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We have a special episode coming up – listener feedback! Contact the host at or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766). Continue reading