William Sydney Porter, popularly known as O. Henry, is perhaps one of the most beloved short story writers in the American canon. (I would recommend the wonderful Christmas story The Gift of the Magi.) But not everybody loved him. The author Katharine Fullerton wrote:
In the very shortest of Maupassant’s stories you find the people etched in so clearly that you know them; you know how they would act whatever extraneous conditions might enter. But you do not find this to be the case in O. Henry’s stories; you know how the people acted in one set of circumstances, but you have no idea how they would act at any other time…
In the modern short story the bad influence of O. Henry is to be seen in the treatment of material. In concrete incident the short story is better than it used to be, but it shows lamentable moral unconscientiousness. The author does not stand his short story up and relate it to life as he used to. O. Henry has taught him that this sort of labor is unnecessary.
Given America’s obesity problem in the 21st century, I think it’s more likely that O. Henry’s namesake candy bar is a more “pernicious influence” than the man himself.
Is O. Henry a Pernicious Literary Influence?: Mrs. Katharine Fullerton Gerould Says That He Wrote Expanded Anecdotes, Not Short Stories, with Nothing But Climax
From July 23, 1916