Howard Riley | The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010 | 6CD Box Set | No Business Records

The beauty of a short story of course, is that it can be taken in at a sitting, indeed is so structured and formulated that it represents a single, continuous verbal performance, unlike the episodic or architectural structure of a long novel. It is, to that extent, a form that lends itself rather well to musical analogies, though not at first glance to improvised music, which tends to subordinate artful structure to moment-by-moment invention. And yet the greatest short stories can often seem improvised: brief, epiphanic flashes where the next step and the eventual outcome remain in doubt to the very end. There’s something of the humane embrace of Chekhov, Hemingway’s muscle, reticence and resistance to mere abstraction, but perhaps it’s Henry James, that master of indefinable atmospheres and of the tense dialogue between Old World and New World cultures. This is the realm Howard Riley occupies with magisterial confidence, jazz given not just a catch-all cisAtlantic accent but with Howard’s distinctive burr, classical language not simply swung but put through a harmonic and rhythmic gate that transforms it utterly. How to hear him? Italo Calvino, another master of the short form, put it perfectly: ‘It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear.’ — Brian Morton Continue reading