But, having made allowance for the truths just recounted, the Committee believe that the average of stories here bound together is high. They respond to the test of form and of life. “The Kitchen Gods” grows from five years of service to the women of China—service by the author, who is a doctor of medicine. “Porcelain Cups” testifies to the interest a genealogist finds in the Elizabethan Age and, more definitely, in the life of Christopher Marlowe. The hardships of David, in the story by Mr. Derieux, are those of a boy in a particular Southern neighbourhood the author knows. Miss Louise Rice, who boasts a strain of Romany blood, spends part of her year with the gypsies. Mr. Terhune is familiar, from the life, with his prototypes of “On Strike.” “Turkey Red” relates a real experience, suited to fiction or to poetry—if Wordsworth was right—for it is an instance of emotion remembered in tranquility. In these and all the others, the story’s the thing.
Some of them, perhaps, were produced because their creators were consciously concerned about the art of creation. “Blue Ice,” by Joseph Hergesheimer, proclaims itself a study in technique, a thing of careful workmanship. “Innocence,” by Rupert Hughes, with “Read It Again” and “The Story I Can’t Write” boldly announce his desire to get the most out of the material. “For They Know not What They Do,” an aspiration of spirit, is fashioned as firmly as the Woolworth Tower.
Just here it may be observed that the Committee noticed a tendency of the present day story which only the future can reveal as significant or insignificant. It is this: in spite of the American liking for the brief tale, as Poe termed it—the conte, as the French know it—in spite of an occasional call from magazines for stories of fewer than 5,000 words, yet the number of these narratives approaching perfection is considerably less than that of the longer story. Whether the long short-story gives greater entertainment to the greater number may be questioned. To state that it is farthest from the practice of O. Henry invites a logical and inevitable conclusion. He wrote two hundred stories averaging about fifteen pages each. Whether it may be greater literature is another matter; if it escapes tediousness it may impress by its weight. If the Committee had selected for publication all the longest stories in the list of thirty-two, this volume would contain the same number of words, but only half the titles.
The Honorary Committee expressed, some of them, to the Committee of Award certain preferences. William Marion Reedy wrote: “I read and printed one very good story called ‘Baby Fever.’ I think it is one of the best stories of the year.” John Phillips, though stating that he had not followed short stories very closely, thought the best one he had read “The Theatrical Sensation of Springtown,” by Bess Streeter Aldrich (American, December). Mrs. Edwin Markham commended Charles Finger’s