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May 7, 2007 | by  | in Books |
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Otherwise Pandemonium

Hey! There’s a combination of Nick Hornby, paper molecules, Pocket Penguin, ink, the number three and a whole lot of words! It looks like a book! I was right, it is, and it’s titled Otherwise Pandemonium! Wow! What a cool name! And it’s totally about crazy VCRs (in the days when names like ‘United Video’ actually meant something) and the end of the world. And, like, pornography!

Nick Hornby is probably best known for writing books that get made into movies starring puppy dogs masquerading as famous actors – see High Fidelity, with the dreamy John Cusack, or the more recent About a Boy, with a middle-aged Hugh Grant (the book of which contains many more Nirvana references than the movie, explaining the title). He does actually write books, not just movie scripts. Here we have two short stories (according to the blurb, one written especially for this volume – how nice).

Numero uno (title story) concerns a 15-year-old boy and his 15-year-old world, in what I assume to be the nineties given that they don’t seem to have anything normal, like cellphones or computers. There’s a video machine that is a little odd, and a bad ending. But our 15-year-old friend gets laid, so he’s pretty chuffed.

It’s a decent story, if a well-worn concept; the one thing that got me was that it loses its timelessness (an important plot point) when it mentions Friends, which finished a few years ago now.

Numero deux (titled Not a Star – no, this doesn’t have anything to do with astrophysics) also concerns videos – of a more illicit kind. Ugh. Imagine if one of the ‘actors’ was very familiar…

Hornby’s an interesting one. His writing is a little too mundane for me. I guess I’m a romantic escapist, and it isn’t like he concerns himself with the problems of the world. But he does do what he does well, and that is to offer insights into real people and the real way we live. He’s accessible and that’s not always a good thing – sometimes he’s a stones throw from someone like Ben Elton. But he’s easy to read, gentle on the tired old grey matter but not disgustingly fluffy. A little bit of this, a little of that. But at $5 (or maybe it’s $4.95?) it ain’t going to kill you to try him out.

NICK HORNBY

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