Monday, July 07, 2008

The Gospel According to Larry

I have become a member of a very small book group of 4. We haven't really had any form or structure so far, and have been just lending each other books. One of the group members, Ben, leant me the book "The gospel according to larry". I have to say, it is one of the worst books I have ever read.

The Gospel according to larry is a book about anti-consumerism. The main character is a loner genius who creates a website ranting against anti-consumerism which becomes a massive hit. I'm going to spoil it heavily when I write this post, but trust me when I say you really do not want to go through the process of reading this book, which does have the one merit of being remarkably short.

The book begins with a rather juvenile framing where the author claims that this is a real story, and that it was written by the gentleman in question, Josh. Reading the book it very obviously that it isn't true, which makes this lie pointless and rather silly. It doesn't add anything to the story, and ties the author to the first person narrative she decides to stick to.

The portrayal of a child genius loner is a rather cynical attempt to appeal to a certain demographic, and as such came across as extremely tiresome. It was hilarious in it's absurdity (claiming that at the age of 2 Josh was solving equations using fridge magnets). Josh is quickly revealed as a rather unpleasent example of his kind- intolerant of others who do not share his proclivites, he considers his stepfather's new girlfriend as pathetic because she is collecting humpty dumpty related paraphenalia.

His unpleasentness is highlighted in an incident where he played a nasty practical joke on a teacher where he conducted an internet romance with her, playing a 40 year old and then leading her on until setting her up for a date for which no-one arrives. He recounts this anecdote with an almost jovial manner, but has the grace to feel sorry for it. There is no real explanation WHY he did in the first place, however.

He also has a relationship with a girl, Beth, who he decides he is in love with, but she does not know. She is dating someone else, a guy who Josh describes as a Jock, and thus despicable. There is no real reason to despise this other person other than Josh says so.

Eventually Josh does come to realise he might have been wrong about these things, but because the book is utterly from his perspective it does feel like it is supporting him. Certainly his rather juvenile rants about consumerism, which are simple minded and poorly written, should not receive the success they do, cumulating in the absurd "larry-fest" hosted by Bono.

The book also sets up a straw man in Josh's dad, Peter, a man in advertising who is pro-consumerism. Peter is unable to present one cogent argument for the advertising industry because the author isn't interested in even the illusion of balance. Peter becomes almost a bogey man at some points, although the tone varies so dramatically that seconds later she is trying to develop sympathy for him.

There is so little to reccommend about this book. The anti-consumerism message is not utterly awful, but has been made so much more effectively in so many other places. This might appeal to a certain age demographic who have not been exposed to these ideas before, but I am certain there are better ways to portray it.

There is very little to reccommend about this book. It

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