A Christmas to break your heart

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O. Henry in 1909.

If you look up the word “pathos” in the dictionary, you’ll find The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.

Not really. But we consider that an oversight to be corrected.

Some people consider the story comic, what with the twist and all: the married couple each giving up something cherished in an attempt to give one another a significant and meaningful gift — only to wind up weirdly missing the mark.

How is that funny? It’s not. It makes you cry. They’re poor as church mice and at the end of it all, what do they have to show one another? Bupkis. Except for the love between them, of course.

One of Columbus’ most famous temporary residents was the author of that story.  O. Henry, the best-known pen-name of short story William Sydney Porter, spent three years in the Ohio Penitentiary on a charge of embezzlement. He’d been on the run and  hiding in Honduras, but when he learned his wife was dying of consumption (tuberculosis), he came back to the United States and faced a jury. Some of his stories were even published while he was jailed. The Gift of the Magi wasn’t one of those, but it is unarguable the most famous story written by this popular and prolific writer.

Porter died young, and we’re not sure if ever came back to Ohio after leaving the penitentiary in Columbus. Some folks say that his pen name came from his time behind those walls: “O. H.” from Ohio, and then “enry” from “penitentiary.” We think that’s a bit of s stretch but we’ll also take it.

If the story makes you cry or makes you smile, it is truly about the spirit of giving and really giving until it hurts. May the spirit of the season grow large and bright within you.

Kind of like Christmas: December 5

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King Gambrinus in Columbus, Ohio

He looks like a certain jolly old elf and he does bring gifts, but he’s not Santa. He’s King Gambrinus and he doesn’t have a special day, but maybe he should. We’d like to suggest December 5 because of its significance in United States History: it’s the day that Prohibition ended.

In 1933, after a less-than-successful run at being alcohol-free, America threw in the towel, effectively saying “Oh to heck with it,” and alcohol was again legal and could be sold, produced, transported, and generally enjoyed.

Our very own King Gambrinus statue in Columbus once adorned a brewery owned by August Wagner, a Bavarian brewer. The statue was saved even though the building is long gone, and his serene highness is now on display in Columbus’ Brewery District.

Beer is back in Columbus and all over Ohio with the rise of independent brewers. The later day beer barons and the fruits of their labors are celebrated in books like Ohio’s Craft Beers by Paul Gaston, published by Kent State University Press.  The latest addition to the genre of Ohio beer book includes Columbus Beer: Recent Brewing & Deep Roots by Curt Schieber.

King Gabrinus himself is less well-documented. He’s not exactly a god and certainly not a historic figure. He’s like Bacchus or any other merry reveler of myth; a personification of good times. With one leg up on a barrel and a foaming flagon held high, he reigns victorious over lesser beverages.

Our attitude is one of gratitude!

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Here at Ohioana, we have a lot to be thankful for. We’re thankful that we get to work with books and people who love them, just for starters. And on this day before Thanksgiving, we want to send a shout-out to some very special folks:

  • To the political leaders who approve our budget. Nonprofit organizations like ours need friends at the Statehouse. We promise to never let you down and to always live up to the trust you place in us to be good stewards of resources that form the backbone of Ohioana.
  • To the Ohio writers. You know how people use the word “literally” when they mean “figuratively”? This is not one of those times. We LITERALLY can’t do this without you and we just love you to pieces! Thank for your support as we strive to support you! And keep writing!

To the supporters, members, and volunteers. Because you subscribe to the Ohioana Quarterly, because you help out at the Book Festival, because you keep reading, we keep going. Thank you for all of your help in 2017!

To the Ohioana Board. Through thick, through thin, you folks are always there, moving us forward and getting into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to keep a nonprofit organization relevant and healthy. Thank you for all of the lunch meetings, suggestions, actions, and innovations.

To book publishing houses. Thank you for your generous gifts of books, promotional materials, author pictures and book cover images, books (we said books, right?) and cross-promotions. We love it when you follow us on social media, and we love to follow back.

To book sellers. Thank you for keeping the wheels of commerce rolling. We’re all in this together.

To the staff. What happens when you get a book-loving staff together with a bunch of political leaders, Ohio writers, supporters/members/volunteers, board members, publishers and books sellers? You get Ohioana.

Happy Thanksgiving!

An Ohio Halloween

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BOO! Did we scare you? Just a little?

It’s that time of year, when pumpkins get carved into jack-o-lanterns and everyone dresses up in great costumes to pretend to be someone (or something) else for a day. There’s plenty of scary stuff right here in Ohio, and fun stuff too — and serious stuff.

A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch, written by Nancy Gilson, featured the work of James Willis. James chases folklore, ghosts stories, and ghosts. He’s the author of three perfect Halloween books: Weird Ohio, The Big Book of Ohio Ghost Stories, and the most recent offering, Central Ohio Legends & Lore. You can follow him on Twitter at @GhostsofOhio to get all of the latest and greatest.

There’s plenty of book offerings in the category of cemeteries in Ohio as well, like Buried Beneath Cleveland: Lost Cemeteries of Cuyahoga County, by Wiliam Krejci. So if you are troubled by poltergeists, it could be that your house or your business is built over the top of a graves that didn’t get moved. Cemeteries that aren’t hidden  are spooky and creepy, for sure, and in older ones if you walk across the grave, the ground might sink under your feet a bit (so DON’T DO THAT! OMG!). But cemeteries  are also full of stories, and one of the few places that ordinary people can be memorialized for posterity.

So if you are looking for spooky thrills on the 31st, check the local paper and see if there’s still time to find a corn maze, a haunted tour, or that perfect pumpkin ready for carving!