Study Guide

Larry O'Grary in Tales of the Madman Underground

By John Barnes

Larry O'Grary

We imagine there were a lot of guys like Larry in high schools across America during the early 1970s. You know the type—wannabe stoners who read weird science-fiction books, make bizarre comments just to creep people out, and have hair that's so long they're often mistaken for girls. Larry is all this and more. In addition to the typical '70s weird-kid list of accomplishments, he also returns to school every year and lies about losing his virginity at summer camp. Every year. And he thinks people don't remember.

Shockingly, Larry isn't in the Madman Underground, and we really aren't sure why he missed out on that. Karl thinks it's because teachers are somehow able to tell the difference between weirdness that's natural and inborn or due to bad family circumstances (the Madmen) and people who are just acting weird for the fun of it (Larry). "Larry really was weird, no question, but I guess not being innately weird like the Madmen, he felt he had to work at it" (5.2), Karl tells us.

Larry the Perpetual Virgin isn't really a key player in the story, but he's definitely an example of how everyone, including Karl, is trying to create an identity for themselves. What's funny is that his mission is the exact opposite of Karl's—if Karl is Operation Be Normal, Larry is Operation Be as Freakin' Borderline Insane as Possible. "I think he was afraid someone would notice that he was just a guy with long hair who read a lot of sci-fi, knew all of Firesign Theater by heart, and stole a lot of one-liners from MAD magazine" (5.5), Karl speculates.