The book which Jess secretly took from Rory’s bookshelves, even though she had earlier offered to lend it to him.
It’s a poetry collection by American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, first published in 1956. It contains his most famous poem, “Howl”, a biographical poem originally inspired by a terrifying peyote vision. The publisher of the book, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, another Beat poet, was subsequently arrested and charged with obscenity, but found not guilty at his 1957 trial.
Jess now reveals that even though he said he didn’t read “much”, he has read Howl and Other Poems about forty times. He smoothly implies that “much” is a relative term, after all.
He has also written notes in the margin for Rory to read. The viewer will now either a) be horrified that he took her book without asking and defaced it, or b) sigh over the fact that he took the opportunity to bond with Rory over literature, sharing his innermost thoughts. It is definitely intended as an intimate, seductive move.
It’s interesting to wonder what thoughts Jess had about “Howl”. It’s an intense poem about madness, rebellion, drug-taking, and sex, which could lead to some interesting observations. If Jess knew a lot about the Beats, he might also be able to pick out those parts of the poem which were taken from real life experiences.
Then again, much of the poem is set in New York, and possibly Jess simply compared his own experiences in the locations mentioned. I can definitely imagine Jess taking a day or a weekend to visit all the places around New York in the poem.