Cabbages and Kings by O. Henry (review by Andrew R. ’17)

Cabbages and KingsCabbages and Kings by O. Henry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

You’ve probably heard of O. Henry, the early twentieth-century American author of countless humorous short stories. And the phrase “cabbages and kings” will ring a bell to anyone who’s familiar with Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poems. (One of his most famous, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” promises to tell the story of “shoes and ships and sealing-wax / And cabbages and kings.”) But you’ve almost certainly never heard them in combination, since Henry’s collection of closely interrelated short stories has not had nearly as much staying power since its 1904 publication as, for instance, “The Ransom of Red Chief” or “The Gift of the Magi” From barbers and tintypists (a hopelessly outdated profession) to diplomats and politicians, ninety percent of the characters populating the stories’ setting, a fictional South American village called Coralio, are American; Henry seeks to satirize supposedly autonomous twentieth-century Caribbean states, whose kings, in reality, had about as much power as cabbages. Cabbages and Kings, like the nonsensical poem that inspired it, doesn’t have much to offer beyond the mildly amusing nonsense of its stories, but any O. Henry fans are still welcome to seek it out on the Harker Library’s Overdrive page in the Project Gutenberg section. – Andrew R. ’17

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