Megan Harlan
May 10, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Prize Stories 1996: The O. Henry Awards

Current Status
In Season
William Abrahams
Short Stories, Fiction

We gave it an A-

Stephen King is the inexplicable winner of this year’s prestigious O. Henry first prize, for a fair-to-middling psychological horror story, ”The Man in the Black Suit,” in which a young boy goes fishing and meets the devil. Perhaps this was a dry year for American short-fiction writers? Clearly not, as the 19 other stories included in Prize Stories 1996: The O. Henry Awards are, overall, rich and eclectic. Works by big names include Jane Smiley’s ”The Life of the Body,” a strangely magnificent tale of a housewife who learns she is pregnant by her lover, and Alice Adams’ humorous ”His Women,” about a macho Citadel graduate who is nevertheless a cuckold. Writers to discover include Ralph Lombreglia (noted for that rare thing, a good and hilarious Internet love story) and Tom Paine (cited for an old-fashioned shipwreck tale with a brilliant political twist). In his final edition as the series’ editor, 30-year veteran William Abrahams makes good on the reader-friendly promise that each story possess ”its own thumbprint — its own individual identity.” A-

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