Otherwise Pandemonium

I read this a few years ago when I first started purchasing the Pocket Penguins, but recently, I needed a bit of a jump-start while reading another book that seemed to be taking a while, and so I plucked this from the shelf for some quick subway reading.

Otherwise Pandemonium consists of two short stories written by Nick Hornby, both of which are quite amusing.

The first is, in fact, called "Otherwise Pandemonium," where a teenage boy acquires a VCR with strange properties. Rather than simply record what he requests, it is able to keep on fast-forwarding... to the point where he can watch the news up to weeks in advance. The question is, with the ability to see into the future, what happens when one sees something they would rather not?

The story is interesting in and of itself, but what really makes it (as what often makes Hornby stories and novels) is the voice of the narrator. A young kid in Berkeley, he has enough to deal with simply by virtue of being a teenager. His mom is a single parent, who he loves, but often gets on his nerves. He gets angry when she tells him that he's arranged a carpool for him to his band practice... Until, of course, he realizes that it's with Martha, a hot girl from school.
This is my favorite story of the two, mostly because I really loved the narrator. His tone was great and his perspective was realistic (such as where he stops and realizes he's telling the story badly because it's all out of order), and Nick Hornby really has a gift for creating delightful young men that might not have it all figured out, but we still find them endearing.

The second story in this little book is "Not a Star," where a mother finds out that her son is an actor in porn films. A nosey neighbor drops off a note ("Does he get this from his Dad?!? You've kept it quiet if he does!!!!") and a copy of the tape on the narrator's doorstep, claiming that her husband saw it at a buddy's house. Now, one can imagine the amazing ridiculousness of the situation. As a rather repressed mother who pretty much stopped thinking about her son's penis after his birth (and then just used it as a means of affirming "it's a boy!"), to now be presented with this tape is a lot for her to handle. Another thing that's hard to handle is seeing the tape and... well... seeing exactly why her big boy has a future in that industry.
Hornby is great at capturing the incredible awkwardness here (being British certainly helps, I imagine), and it's certainly not your usual topic for a family meeting.

Overall, a lovely little volume... as are most of the Pocket Penguins.

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