A one-legged news vendor with a dilapidated newsstand. An exotic dancer with a penchant for witchcraft. An existentialist narrator who devises a plan to fade out of his own life in a subversive and comically absurd attempt at self-preservation, leaving his partner and two children with no memory of him.
Comparable only to Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis as an allegory of transformation, reality, and the absurdity of human existence; The Last News Vendor is a dreamlike meditation on broken spirituality, a collapsing society, and the overburdened contemporary soul.
About the author
The author of a clutch of novels, plays, film scripts and short story and poetry collections, MICHAEL MIROLLA describes his writing as a mix of magic realism, surrealism, speculative fiction and meta—fiction. Publications include the novel Berlin (a 2010 Bressani Prize winner); The Facility, which features among other things a string of cloned Mussolinis; and The Giulio Metaphysics III, a novel/linked short story collection wherein a character named "Giulio" battles for freedom from his own creator.
Other publications include the short story collection The Formal Logic of Emotion; a punk novella, The Ballad of Martin B.; and two collections of poetry: Light and Time, and The House on 14th Avenue (2014 Bressani Prize). His short story collection, Lessons in Relationship Dyads, from Red Hen Press in California, took the 2016 Bressani Prize. The novel Torp: The Landlord, The Husband, The Wife and The Lover, set in 1970 Vancouver during the War Measures Act, was published in 2016 (Linda Leith Publishing). 2017 saw the publication of the magic realist short story collection The Photographer in Search of Death (Exile Editions). A novella, The Last News Vendor, published in the fall of 2019 (Quattro), received a Readers' View, Reviewers' Choice Award. A speculative fiction collection, Paradise Islands & Other Galaxies (Exile Editions), was published in the fall of 2020. The short story, "A Theory of Discontinuous Existence," was selected for The Journey Prize Anthology; and "The Sand Flea" was a Pushcart Prize nominee. In the fall of 2019, Michael served a three—month writer's residency at the Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, during which time he finished the first draft of a novel, The Second Law of Thermodynamics. Born in Italy and raised in Montreal, Michael now makes his home in Hamilton. For more information, http://www.michaelmirolla.com/index.html.
Excerpt: The Last News Vendor (by (author) Michael Mirolla)
After thirteen days of having intensely studied Sully (or Cully) and his newsstand, both through close at hand observation and by means of a pair of army surplus 8 X 40 binoculars, I am now (or was then?) able to surface with this series of descriptions, notes, and reflections - not to mention the premises, assumptions and conclusions needed as a necessary prelude to any meaningful action:
Notes On The Behaviour of Cully (Or Sully),The News Vendor, As Diligently CompiledBetween March Eighth and Twentieth
1. His name is Arthur Sully (or Cully), I can't be sure which. That's because the hand-painted wooden sign over his newsstand reads either: 'ARTHUR SULLY'S NEWS-A-RAMA' or 'ARTHUR CULLY'S NEWS-A-RAMA', with the 'S' and the 'C' superimposed one on the other. It may have been a slip of the sign-designer's brush and a half-hearted attempt at correcting it. Or his predecessor might have been Cully and he Sully. Or the opposite. Or he might have simply changed his last name. Or he may have left the previous owner's name on the sign. Whatever. I probably could find out for sure on closer inspection. But it doesn't really make much of a difference to me - at least not at this point. I'll just refer to him as the News Vendor. Is he the last News Vendor left? In this city, most likely. I can't speak for other places. Perhaps there are still some for nostalgia's sake in cities like London and Paris. But in this particular city, I have not run across any others. And I've roamed up and down its streets - from mountain (both cis- and trans-) to sea, from forest to skyscraper. Assumption: having opted for pixels on screens of all sizes, and devices that are friendly and respond nonjudgmentally to the most awkward of personal questions including bowel movements, the public for the most part has stopped purchasing paper news. It's so retro, as my daughter likes to say. Or in the words of my partner: Why bother with all that searching when the search comes to you with a couple of clicks? Or voice request?
2. The Newsstand: It may be dilapidated. It may be falling apart. It may have holes through which the wind can whistle. It may be in need of several coats of paint, right now a faded army green. But it is nevertheless a thing of beauty. Something that deserves to be preserved. A hexagonal over-hanging roof provides both shade and some protection from the weather. Across the front, a window swings out horizontally and is pinned back to reveal all the treasures within. To one side, a door that can be opened both fully or only the top half with shelving exposed when open; on the other, a series of slats that slide away and allow potential customers to enter. It's a model of efficiency with every nook and cranny packed with objects of pleasure if not pure knowledge. How could you not but admire ...? I'm getting ahead of myself. Stick to observations, please.
3. The News Vendor: He's old. Extremely old. So old that ... Hmmm, that might prove the first difficulty. No, no. Think improvisation. A touch of suffering - and there'll be plenty of that, I'm sure - and a matter of time, that's all. A matter of time. The wrinkles, the lines, all the troubling marks and symbols of age will come. Simply a matter of time.
4. He's bald. No comment. Well, maybe just one comment. He's not exactly or completely bald. A curly silver fringe, like steel wool, sticking out around the ears and back of neck. Anyway, not to worry. The crown of his head is usually covered by a greasy blue-grey sailor's cap and can be seen only when he removes that cap to wipe his brow.
5. He possesses only one leg. He ... - Only one leg! Christ on a stick! Only one leg! I mean only one real leg, one leg of flesh and bone - and that itself being mostly bone. The other's wooden, a peg-leg of the antique pirate type, slightly warped and cracked with age, which he straps on with leather thongs. Many marks and holes in it. As if he has been jabbing old-style compasses or pen-knives into it to whittle away the time. On the other hand, it might only be the work of termites after all. Busy little insects missed by the housing inspector. Able to create mounds that can be seen from outer space. And having found a perfect place to both hide and feed amid all that pulp and paper.
6. Dress: A red -
"When fantasy pushes aside the lucid remonstrances of the banal, that is where you will find Michael Mirolla. He has delivered in his newest novella, The Last News Vendor, the quintessential metamorphosis of the observer to the observed and at the cutting edge of literary metaphors." -- Ian Thomas Shaw, Ottawa Review of Books.
One wonders in reading Michael Mirolla's The Last News Vendor whether he isn't inspired by the Japanese painter Hirosige of the ukiyo-e tradition. Mirolla uses concrete props - porn and printers ink, grease and tattoos, vinyl and vice - as gateways to the coded revelations of the inner city night. Reading The Last News Vendor was like stumbling across an illicit act in flagrante delicto, and finding yourself unable to pull away. He describes a universe that is tactile rather than virtual, and which had me recalling two other tales of things disappearing, never to return - John Fowles' "The Collector" and Doris Lessing's "Briefing for a Descent into Hell". -- David MacKinnon, author of A Voluntary Crucifixion and Leper Tango.
"The truth about the truth is that it gets into everything, but Michael Mirolla does not let the mulling interfere with the buzzing, with all that we have forgotten. As for what's not in this book, well that's his too, he's just lucky that way." -- Claudio Gaudio, author of Texas.