Posted in Male Author, Short Story

Deal Me In, Week 10 ~ “Otherwise Pandemonium”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Otherwise Pandemonium” by Nick Hornby

Card picked: Nine of Clubs

From: Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon


“So let’s say this is the story of how I ended up getting laid–a story with a beginning, and a weird middle, and a happy ending. Otherwise I’d have to tell you a Stephen King-type story, with a beginning and a weird middle and a really fucking scary ending…”*

Except, that really isn’t the story our unnamed narrator tell us. The weird middle gets most of the word count here. (Our narrator is unnamed because he’s decided that us readers don’t need to know “all that Holden Caulfield kind of crap.”) Our narrator, forced by his mother to buy his own VCR, purchases a used model from an appliance repair store. The store’s hippie proprietor is somewhat mysterious about the machine and it’s paranormal abilities are soon discovered.

The story is written in a light engaging style. Our narrator is a fifteen year old boy and his opinions are full of the injustices of life during puberty. He also explains several times that he’s not a creep, but he is fifteen and, you know, wants to have sex.

The title refers to the Johnny Mercer tune “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” a song that our narrator’s mother often sings when things aren’t going so well. Like when she signs him up for jazz band in their new hometown of Berkley.

* I had really hoped that I’d draw the ten of clubs next week and read the story after this one in Thrilling Tales: “The Tale of Gray Dick” by Stephen King.

I’m going to put a **SPOILER WARNING** here because what didn’t work for me has to do with the speculative fiction crux of the story.

The VCR allows the watcher to fast forward through network TV, essentially allowing the him to see into the future. For example, he watches the Lakers beat the Pacers in the NBA finals while earlier playoff games are still occurring. This would seem to set this story in 2000. Our narrator continues to watch six weeks into the future when network television suddenly goes dead after a period of disasters/war. But there is also a passing mention to 9/11, which isn’t until 2001. But the story is told from a present that is during the six weeks after the NBA finals. This confuses me and puts me ill-at-ease with this story. After further thought, I suppose it’s possible that Lakers/Pacers matchup might be wishful thinking for 2002. The Pacers were knocked out of playoffs in the first round by the eventual finalists, the Nets. I guess my problem is, if Hornby means to put this in an indefinite future, why use such concrete details? Yes, it gives it reality, but can also cause problems.

About the Author: Nick Hornby is an author I keep *intending* to read, but I haven’t quite gotten to. I’ve had Fever Pitch on my shelf, literally a physical shelf, for a few years now and The Polysyllabic Spree has been on my TRB list for much longer.



Writer, publisher. Hobbies include reading, studying magic & illusions from a historical/theoretical perspective, and playing ultimate frisbee.

3 thoughts on “Deal Me In, Week 10 ~ “Otherwise Pandemonium”

  1. I like the passage you included in your post. Hornby’s novel “Juliet, Naked” is one of my favorite 21st century novels. I also enjoyed his novel “About a Boy”. I might need to include him in my future reading. And the “all that Holden Caulfield kind of crap” line – that’s good!

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