The Gospel According to Larry – Janet Tashjian

This post includes my thoughts about the novel The Gospel according to Larry, so consider it to contain spoilers or however you choose to phrase that, if this is something that you are concerned about then click a way from this post now. If not,  go forth and cogitate.

I have read this book approximately four times, every single time I pick up something new from it and take away different thoughts and opinions on some of the issues raised. Recently myself and a couple of friends read this book as part of our… well I hesitate to use the term book group since there are only three of us, it’s more of an excuse to get together and have a chat and a coffee, since one of us has now changed jobs. This book was my suggestion and the first we read (the next is Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen).

Since we were reading it and then commenting on it as a group, this is the first time that I have read the novel and made notes of my thoughts, upon events within the plot etc, which in and of itself was an interesting experience since I’d never read it with this much attention to detail before. I ended up with five pages of notes about a book that is only about     pages long.

So, I had initial thoughts prior to opening the novel, based upon my past readings of it, in the hopes that maybe some of them would be answered, but also to act as more of a focus whilst I re-reading it with discussion in mind.

  • Why did Betagold make me so angry/frustrated?
  • Are 75 possessions an arbitrary number or chosen for a specific reason?
  • Interested by the idea that he talks to his dead mother and then waits for her replies by using the people’s voices around him.
  • Why is he obsessed about Beth, is she included to make him more like a normal teenager, to make him seem a little less weird and perfect?
  • Anti-consumerism
  • Walden Pond/Thoreau, New England
  • Why does Betagold do what she does, what are her motivations her objectives, or is she simply there as a catalyst for Josh/Larry?

Then there were my thoughts that I wrote down whilst reading, the only order they have is that dictated by the plot development since they were written concurrently with the novel.

  • What is the point of the note to reader? Why is there the question of Josh really being Larry or not, when in the front cover with the information about copyright and the year of publication and the typeset etc there is a disclaimer that the novel is purely fictional and not based upon any real persons. So why continue that charade? Why have Josh speaking to the author and asking her to publish his story? Does it enhance the validity of the message? Some form of self-deprecating justification for what she is writing? Or simply as a way of distancing herself and disclaiming her attachment to the ‘message’?
  • What is the pertinence of the biblical quotations used? Why did they have to be biblical? Josh made a point of telling Tashjian that he had added in the biblical quotes. Justification? Validity? Pretentiousness?

Part one

  • The first quote for the first part is St John 21:24 where he testifies himself that he telling the truth, how does this self claim add any validity to his assertions of truth?

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. John 21:24

  • I like the typesetting; it’s not the most usual.
  • Larry/Josh is an individual with a very high IQ, is he eccentric or simply too ‘weird’, is Tasjian trying too hard with her lead character.
  • Change the world with ideas.
  • One nice friend is all you need p.
  • Katherine’s Humpty Dumpty fixation, metaphor for random and blatant consumerism or just as a foil to Josh’s views? Is there a meaning behind the specific choice of Humpty Dumpty or is it an arbitrary choice? (Before the fall, Larry’s, Josh or Humpty Dumpty)
  • Both Larry and Beth are vegetarian

Part two

  • Part two quote; St Matthew 10:39 this part is about Josh’s character, his relationship with nature his philosophies and ideals.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39

  • Reduction of stuff!
  • Can you actually trace a person by possessions alone, if you don’t know them? Or is it one of those conveniences written by authors to help move the plot along and to introduce outside influences in this case Betagold.
  • Seventy Five possessions (like Josh, this is one I keep coming back to), this includes his house key, clothes, underwear, school stuff… everything. I have three house keys, because that is how my rented accommodation works, never mind 75 possessions. One thing I especially like about his novel is that every time I read it, I have a thorough clear out of my possessions and narrow them down. I have never tried to actually count my possessions but I am constantly striving to reduce what I own. Though Josh doesn’t own property and therefore doesn’t have the added household stuff like kitchen crockery etc even if it is only basic and for one person he has none of these constraints because he lives at home and these things are provided for him.
  • Do I have to own this item so badly that it’s worth removing something else with meaning from my list of 75 possessions? I like the idea behind this, and at the very least I try to be more thoughtful about what it is I am adding and claiming ownership of and whether I can live up to the responsibility of owning it.
  • Write about what he knows… though his scope is only as wide as his information gathering allows for. He doesn’t have much actual world experience and indeed is quite naïve and very idealistic (verging on preachy) about some of his ideas and beliefs.
  • I like that he has a basement swing.
  • Pit in the woods 10×12 paces and 7ft deep, self dug over a month of weekends.
  • He does yoga, particularly the tree pose to stay balanced.
  • Can a culture junkie disconnect from civilisation? In his case how is he defining this, it can be such a loose term with such a broad scope.
  • Betagold is twofaced, manipulative and self-centred, she asks why he hides behind a screen name, when she is doing exactly the same thing. Does her life lack any significant meaning that the idea of tracing a person airing his views and violating their privacy is how she gets her kicks? Whatever turns your crank I suppose?
  • Josh was afraid that people wouldn’t pay him any attention is he said who he was, what about his freedom to speech and his right to privacy? Though if he wanted them that much then why open himself up to the possibility?
  • This book started my love for apples and peanut butter, also with Ritz crackers, though I am a Skippy fan as opposed to Jif. (Mostly because it is easier to get hold of here than Jif is).
  • This book always makes me think, generally it changes my views or more specifically, makes me think about them more carefully and helps me to consider the repercussions of such things. I always experience something new from the book too, whether it is an idea or a turn of phrase that intrigues me…
  • Josh/Larry acknowledges that his sermons are his own opinions, his own rhetoric and passion for his subjects… maybe that is why so many people followed him, not just the bandwagon issues but also due to a charismatic way of voicing the thoughts.
  • Half of the 6 billion people in the world live on less than $2 a day (c. £1.30?)
  • Can you live by nature anymore or have we as a culture removed ourselves so far from it that when the technological age comes to a close (crashes) will we be able to survive? Can anyone still tell the time from the sun or find north without a compass…indeed can people find north with a compass?
  • Is Betagold only there for the element of conflict or does her character have a greater purpose?
  • Betagold doesn’t think Larry stands behind his own words? How can she judge that? Does she know him? Does she stand behind her own words? She excuses herself and her actions by saying that she agrees with what he is saying? As an adult in all of this, she never once takes responsibility for the fallout of her actions, never considers anyone but herself and her desires throughout all of the shenanigans? She thinks the world deserves to know his identity. Why?
  • Josh argues that he withholds his identity because it would alter peoples opinions, they would come to his ‘sermons’ with a preconceived notion of what he was saying and why he was saying it. By saying he is white, or black or retired or a woman etc he is altering his readership demographic and people might choose not to listen to a person if they came from a specific demographic based on their own prejudices or opinions.
  • USA teens spend $141 billion on Stuff. Is this information still current and is it their own earned money or is it actually their parents money? I don’t argue with the size of that particular demographic and their propensity for spending money etc. Lucrative teen market.
  • Crazes, why do certain things become so insanely popular and why do something’s never make the cut or come around repeatedly? What makes something worthy of en masse attention? Is it simply clever marketing or are their other things at play?
  • The more Larry posts, the more people specific they become, there is a danger in increased preachiness with that.
  • Anti-commercial propaganda (I am still firmly with Larry on the avoidance of advertising etc, I think when I first read this novel that is the initial and firmest thing I took away from it)
  • Fruit stickers – they continue to be there for the supermarkets convenience because nobody complains or suggests otherwise.

Part three

  • St Mark 1:11 (all the quotes are taken from the Gospels), this one signifies the beginning of the end for Larry/Josh, or maybe the loss of his grip on reality.

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11

  • Larryfest, with Bono etc. Is the draw the message of anti-consumerism or the attachment of the various celebrities endorsing it? If it is just the celebrities then it is rather ironic considering sermon #63 about the celebrity culture that has recently been emerging in a big way.
  • Josh’s biggest desire is to contribute, is he actually doing so or is he taking his typical more backseated version and convincing himself otherwise? Ultimately it is Beth who is the one contributing to society in the way Josh claims he wants to.
  • I am not your billboard t-shirts.
  • Beth re: Betagold’s petition about ‘outing’ Larry;

These people who can’t just enjoy things have to find something to bitch about.

  • Betagold’s use of the words need and deserve to justify her actions drive me crackers, and are probably the things that annoy me the most about her. How does this come even close to justifying her actions and the repercussions? What about Josh’s ‘rights’ that she claims are so important for everybody else, but are they meaningless in relation to him?

Part four

  • St Matthew 16:26 What have we gained if we have the world but at the cost of our souls? (This part is about Josh becoming free of the constraints of the privacy of his persona, he is ‘out’ as Larry.)

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26

  • His fear about not being listened to is proven almost immediately, he is no longer taken seriously he is just ‘some kid’.
  • Larry becomes a product to be consumed, and so does Josh by association.
  • Pseudocide

Part five

  • St John 20:9 About Jesus rising from the dead, which is what Josh now needs to do.

(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) John 20:9

  • Be the hero of your own life
  • There are six parts plus the prologue and epilogue… is this representative of the seven stages of man? Link to Greek tragedy and its cycles?
  • St Luke 24:23-31

24Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

25He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ[b] have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Luke 24:23-31

  • Betagold claims that Larry belonged to the people in life and death, and that it was her duty and her destiny to bring Larry to the public attention. How? How is she worthy of any of those things, what makes her the judge or the voice of the people?
  • Betagold has a deeply inflated sense of ego, now who has the messiah complex she once accused Larry of having?
  • Josh believes that humans are an endangered species, who are our own predators; we are so focused on the short term instant gratification that we are failing to look after the future. We will wipe ourselves out.
  • Josh says he is going to focus on looking inside himself for the answers rather than to outside influences, humans have an insatiable hunger for new and exciting.
  • Josh asks himself; Was it all worth it? Was what he had to say so important that it was worthy of this outcome?
  • Josh figures that he shouldn’t have cared about Larry’s message more than the people in his life, and that was his mistake.
  • Scandal after death
  • Paternity suit X, 11year old Larry behind the 1995 Oklahoma bombings? The whole media frenzy after his ‘death’.
  • The whole aftereffet completely ignores Larry’s sermon about the toxicity of celebrity worship.
  • Josh is still hiding behind a persona, what are the benefits?
  • He says he wrote the book because he felt their were important things to say, but he knew that it would ‘out’ him as Larry, he feels unsure about doing so but feels that he needs to be honest right now… quite an American attitude and heavy links with therapy key words and ideas.
  • He realises that his contribution doesn’t have to be monumental in scale, it can be something small but important like giving somebody food or smiling at an overworked waitress.
  • Primitive tribes used to cure the sick by sitting around them and asking ‘what has been left unsaid?’ 98% cure rate (apparently)
  • If he had been straightforward and honest about his views instead of hiding behind a screen persona would it have been any better? Would it have had such a far reaching impact?
  • He has a second chance, realise been trying to fix the outside world without fixing himself first.
  • I could change the world. I’d just start with me this time.

Epilogue

  • Revelations 1:19 p221

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” Revelation 1:19

  • Betagold asks Tashjian about Josh I want to know. I deserve to know.
  • When she shops she now asks is this item worth adding to my life?

Mother Teresa

We can do no great things…only small things with great love…do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.

Further thoughts

  • Larry/Josh isn’t necessary likeable, but I care more about what he is saying that about him…is this a good thing? Ultimately it is the message not the messenger that is of importance.
  • Like the attitudes that he has
  • Generally his personality is somewhat indicative of his age group, such as the melodrama over deciding pseudocide was his only course of action available to him.
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About Nerdsbian

I am a nerd for ALL seasons. I am a genderqueer Librarian who unsurprisingly likes reading...a lot But I love being outside too...sometimes even reading at the same time. Also animals, any and all of them. Never yet met one that didn't get on with me and vice versa. I do a couple of different voluntary jobs (animal charity related) and have recently completed my MA.
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