Saturday, September 18, 2010

Short Story Saturday: "The Man Higher Up" by O. Henry

For today’s Short Story Saturday I read “The Man Higher Up” by O. Henry. This is the first work I’ve read by O. Henry (pen name for William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910) and I was very impressed. Why I’ve never read anything by this American author before is a mystery. In school it was all Faulkner and Hemingway who are fine and dandy but honestly, I thought “The Man Higher Up” demonstrates as much skill as the other two authors and was more enjoyable to read.

For your reading pleasure, here’s the full text of “The Man Higher Up.” It’s about a 10-15 minute read. 

Which is worse: Wall Street speculation or plain old fashioned burglary? This is the story’s premise.

What I enjoyed about “The Man Higher Up”:

•    The work captures the hierarchical nature of society and points out that even “degenerates” have their classes.
•    The irony, sarcasm and word-play are great fun.
•    The point of view is masterfully crafted. We have an unknown narrator sharing a conversation he had with a friend, Jeff Peters. Peters tells his long story to this narrator. So, we get a wonderfully distorted first-person narrative. And it works.
•    The dialog is smart, witty and creates one-of-a-kind characters.
•    The “surprise ending,” for which O. Henry is known, brings the story full-circle and gave me a nice chuckle.

I highly recommend this short story and I’ll be keeping my eye out for O. Henry in the future. If you’ve read the story, what did you think of it?
I read this story from an anthology, 50 Great Short Stories, pages 181-193. 
Publisher: Bantam Classics, 2005
Source: Purchased from Amazon

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