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  • The Gospel According to Larry
  • Written by Janet Tashjian
    Read by Jesse Eisenberg
  • Format: Unabridged Audiobook Download | ISBN: 9780807223062
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The Gospel According to Larry

Written by Janet TashjianAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Janet Tashjian
Read by Jesse EisenbergAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jesse Eisenberg

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Read by Jesse Eisenberg
On Sale: April 13, 2004
ISBN: 978-0-8072-2306-2
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Josh Swensen is not your average 17-year-old. At the age of two, he was figuring out algebraic equations with colored magnetic numbers. He is a prodigy who only wants to make the world a better place. Josh’s wish comes true when his virtual alter ego, Larry, becomes a huge media sensation. Larry has his own Web site where he posts sermons on anti-consumerism and has a large following of adults and teens. Meanwhile, Larry’s identity is a mystery to everyone. While it seems as if the whole world is trying to figure out Larry’s true identity, Josh feels trapped inside his own creation. What will happen to the world, and to Larry, if he is exposed?


From the Paperback edition.

Excerpt

Part One

“I haven’t enjoyed a rant this much since Thoreau,” Beth said. “We need people stirring up the way we think about things.”

My best friend, Beth, was trying to talk me into forming a Larry study group with her. His Web site—www.thegospelaccordingtolarry.com—received hundreds of hits a day, mostly from teens and college students. No one knew Larry’s identity, and that conjecture alone was the source of several companion Web sites. Many kids at school were fans, but Beth was rabid.

“Josh, I know neither one of us has ever joined a club in our life,” she said. “But that’s precisely why we should.”

I tried to listen to the details of her story, I really did, but there is something about Beth’s mouth that gets in the way of paying attention to its contents. She often wore a certain brown lipstick and outlined the edges of her lips with this pencil she carried in her bag. Every time she talked, it was like this pale chocolate snowcone staring up at me, waiting to be eaten. I’ve been in love with her since sixth grade, but she didn’t have a clue.

“I’ll help you with the club,” I said. “But just so the two of us can bag all the meetings and laugh at the other people who show up.”

She wasn’t amused. “This isn’t a joke. Someone is finally talking about the things I’ve been saying all along, and I think it’s important to help spread the word. Are you in or are you out?”

“Of course I’m in. I can’t let you do this on your own. Next thing I know you’ll be running for prom queen or something.”

She punched me in the arm, her usual form of affection. “Hey, why don’t you help me at the store this afternoon? We’re having a run on shovels.”

Beth’s father’s hardware store had been our work/tree house/summer camp since grammar school. Sorting the nuts and bolts, counting the different lightbulbs, shoveling the woodchips into wheelbarrows had never seemed like a job to either of us. The small store prided itself on carrying everything a homeowner could need, but for a loner like me it was a nonthreatening way to be a part of the community without too much social pressure. I told Beth I’d meet her there at four.

For a brief moment I pretended we were a couple, not snowbound outside Boston, but romping through the Caribbean surf—tan and in love. My fantasy shattered, however, when she waved goodbye and headed across the cafeteria to Todd Terrific—a new jock she was obsessed with. Can someone please explain to me how this preoccupation with dopey athletes happens even to headstrong young women who work in hardware stores and score 1350s on their SATs? Beth, what are you doing to me? Life was cruel and unfair—what did this Larry guy have to say about that?

The rest of school went by like the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray wakes up and every day is the same, down to the last boring details. Even when something new did happen—fire drill, substitute teacher—it was still just a giant yawn in the storyline. To keep myself amused during study hall, I invented a new alphabet based on the sense of smell.

At home that night, I booted up my laptop and logged on. I checked my e-mail, then the small portfolio of stocks my mother left me when she died. I made one last online stop: to Larry. I wondered if Beth was doing the same thing at the same time—an unrequited cyberdate.

The Larry logo filled the screen—a peace sign with a dove, a floppy disk, a planet, and a plug inside each of its four sections. I scrolled down through several photographs to comments people had written that day: puljohn posted a new link to Adbusters. Toejam ranted about Larry’s last sermon, calling it brilliantly flawed. I was in the middle of reading his argument when Peter knocked quickly, then stuck his head in my room.

“Want some leftover pizza?”

My stepfather was the ultimate businessman; even in his terrycloth robe and slippers with the squashed heels, he could command his advertising consulting firm from the brink of failure to unbridled success. He had the whole sales thing down—the firm handshake, the warm smile, the good listening. It was the real Peter, not put on, like lots of other guys at his company.

He looked over my shoulder and checked out the screen.

“I’ve heard about this Larry,” he said. “Some guy bashing our culture online. Anonymous coward.”

“Some people think it’s one of the big televangelists trying to reach the teen market. Or maybe it’s a bored housewife in the suburbs looking for something to do.”

Peter shook his head. “Probably some hacker trying to make a name for himself.”

“I’ll add that to the list of hypotheses,” I said.

“You do that.” He handed me a slice of pizza on a paper towel. “Dinner at Katherine’s tomorrow. That okay with you?”

“Sure. Great.” Katherine was my stepfather’s girlfriend who had been putting on the full-court press to be the next Mrs. Swensen. I didn’t have the nerve to tell Peter I found her as interesting as a bag of rice.

Peter closed the door and headed downstairs to his office. I browsed the Larry archives, then printed out the latest sermon to prepare for Beth tomorrow.

Sermon #93

Slip on your Gap jeans, your Nike T-shirt, your Reeboks—or maybe even your Cons if you think that makes you cool and ironic in a Kurt Cobain kind of way. Grab your Adidas backpack, ride to school on your Razor, drink your Poland Spring, eat your PowerBar, write a paper on your iMac, slip on your Ralph Lauren windbreaker. Buy the latest CD from Tower, check the caller ID to see who’s on the phone, eat your Doritos, drink your Coke. Stare at the TV till you’re stupefied.

Is there any time of the day when we’re not being used and abused by the advertising companies? Can we have an inch of free space, do you mind? Some ambitious kids rent their head space—the outside, not the inside (although the inside space is certainly emptier)—to local companies by shaving ads into their hair for all their friends to see. It’s just a matter of time before corporations figure out a way to sell you stuff while you’re sleeping. Maybe some kind of vitamin that releases visual and sonic enzymes that run like a ticker tape through your dreams—ALL THE LATEST RELEASES NOW AT BLOCKBUSTER ... CHEESIER NACHOS AT CHILI’S . . . BY THE WAY, YOU’RE SNORING. . . .

Am I the only one who sees the irony of sitting in lit class reading 1984, having a discussion of Big Brother watching out for us like it’s some time way in the future? Some science fiction nightmare that’s never really going to happen? Hel-lo? Our lives couldn’t be more dictated by the corporations if they gave our schools A/V equipment in exchange for making us watch commercials in class.

Oh yeah, they do that already.

Never mind.

Good thing Peter hadn’t hung around for that one. By two a.m., I had fourteen pages of notes for the new Larry club. When I added up all the things I’d done for Beth over the years, I figured it was more effort than they put into developing the last space shuttle.

And completely and totally worth it.


From the Paperback edition.
Jesse Eisenberg

About Jesse Eisenberg

Jesse Eisenberg - The Gospel According to Larry
Jesse Eisenberg made his screen debut with the comedy-drama television series Get Real from 1999 to 2000. After his first leading role in the film Roger Dodger, he appeared in such films as The Squid and the Whale and The Education of Charlie Banks . In 2008, Eisenberg was honored alongside Olivia Wilde with the Vail Film Festival Rising Star Award.  In 2009, he starred in the comedy drama Adventureland and the zombie comedy Zombieland, for which he gained critical acclaim. He then played Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, for which he received a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor category.
Praise

Praise

“The voice is clear, the ending satisfying. The readers will eat this one up.”
–Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“A terrific read with a credible and lovable main character.”
–School Library Journal, Starred


From the Paperback edition.
Reader's Guide

About the Book

Questions for Discussion
1. In his quest to be antimaterialistic, Josh has just seventy-five possessions, including shirts, shoes, keys, books, CDs, and underwear. If you had to limit the things you own to seventy-five items, what would they be?
2. Josh states, “I've only wanted one thing in my life–to contribute, to help make the world a better place . . . not with technology, but with ideas.” Is Josh true to his vision?
3. Is the way Josh/Larry manipulates his followers any different from the way the media, big business, or politicians manipulate the public?
4. Josh steals confidential documents from Peter’s briefcase in order to attack the companies his stepfather represents. Is he right to do this? Does the end justify the means?
5. Paint a picture of Josh’s character. Why is it that he has only one friend? Discuss his relationship with Beth. Do you think he would have created the Larry Web site if he had told Beth how he felt about her?
6. Discuss the ethics of spouting views on the Internet, or in any medium, under a false identity. Betagold claims that Larry is a coward for keeping his identity a secret. Do you agree? Or is Larry right to think that revealing who he is would detract from his message?
7. Discuss Josh’s motivation for creating the Larry Web site. Is he being honest or is he just playing a game? He is disturbed by the magnitude of the response to his Web site and by the hero he becomes, but he does not close down the web site. Why?
8. Josh is disillusioned by the reaction of the public once his identity is known. No one seems to be interested in his message–people are interested only in him as a celebrity. The producer of 20/20 tells him, “They want to know about you. You’re the story, just you. People want gossip; people want sizzle.” What does this tell you about how the media views the public? What happens when the sizzle fizzles?
9. Josh says that we feast on celebrities, caring for people who have no idea who we are. How do you feel about this? Should we care about the private lives of our favorite rock stars? If you were a celebrity, how would you handle fame?
10. “No offense, Josh, but this idealism thing is a phase, like so many other things you’ve been through. . . . You don’t have enough life experience. You don’t know how the real world works yet.” How much of what Peter says to Josh is true, or is it as Josh responds, “Adults always say that to keep kids quiet?”
11. Some of Josh’s actions might be considered unethical. Do you think anything Josh does is immoral? Is the writing of his story the solution for Josh, or is it just another way to avoid taking responsibility? How will Josh find peace? Is he on the right path?
12. Josh’s/Larry’s sermons rail against exploitation of third-world countries, celebrity worship, and the way big business manipulates our lives, to name a few issues. What are the things about society that you and your friends hope to change?

This guide was prepared by Clifford Wohl, educational consultant.


From the Paperback edition.

  • The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian
  • April 13, 2004
  • Juvenile Fiction - Social Situations
  • Listening Library (Audio)
  • $8.95
  • 9780807223062

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