THE LAST NEWS VENDOR
Quattro Books (2019)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (02/2020)
“The Last News Vendor” by Michael Mirolla is an uncanny plunge into the mind of a man (blissfully?) detached from the realities of a changing world. Obsessed with a one-legged news vendor, dissatisfied with his partner, and disconnected from his children, it’s the story of one man’s absurd plan for the next level of his existence – come what may.
Told from the point of view of an abstract narrator, the story unfolds through two sections. The first section, A: Prelude To Any Action or Notes of Delphic Importance, opens with his thoughts and observations from stalking (studying) said news vendor. His notes contain explicit details of the very existence of said news vendor. While interludes of the narrator’s actual life often interrupt him with the writing of these notes, it’s the observations contained in these notes that provide the essence of the story. The second section of the book, B: Consequent Action Following Upon a Necessary Prelude, sets the narrator’s plan into action. It’s a surreal journey into just what goes into taking over the life of another person.
As this is a novella, the story is succinct at just over 80 pages. But don’t mistake, “The Last News Vendor” for an easy read. The content is literary density – every sentence crucial in the context of the story. The writing is clever and fluent and makes for a satisfying excursion into another world. I enjoyed the author’s writing style – at times I laughed, at times I shook my head wondering, WHAT? The following excerpt is a sampling of the narrator’s notes from following the news vendor to a pool hall (from page 26):
“He uses his wooden leg instead of a cue, rubs the front of it with chalk, leans over the table, his good leg securely on the ground. The others are hypnotized into losing, into believing they, too, hold wooden legs in their hands, too thick and bulky to handle properly. Or maybe real legs with the blood not yet dry on them, their owners the true victims of my partner’s rituals.”
The characters are as notable and outrageous as the storyline. Of course, there is the news vendor and the peculiar narrator. Mirolla also introduces several other bizarre characters such as the narrator’s partner – an exotic dancer, along with an old, blind street woman who has a grisly white beard and wears sandbags around her middle. She spends her time spewing off-the-wall prophecies to anyone in earshot. All the characters are quite entertaining!
Overall, I’d say, “The Last News Vendor” by Michael Mirolla is an unconventional, though strangely appealing journey into another dimension, and I recommend it to those who prefer a bit of the extraordinary in their reading adventures.