LORELAI: Did you get lost?
JESS: No, I was looking at Rory’s books … I wanted to see if she had Franny and Zooey. She does.
The book focuses on Frances (“Franny”) and her brother Zachary (“Zooey”), the youngest members of the Glass family, who frequently appeared in Salinger’s short stories. They were a large family of highly precocious children , the offspring of two vaudeville performers in New York City, the father an Australian Jew, the mother Irish. The Glass children all get college educations by winning a radio quiz show.
Both stories reflect Salinger’s interest in Eastern mysticism, particularly Zen Buddhism and Hindu Advaita Vedanta, as well as Eastern Orthodox Christian spirituality. Franny and Zooey was very popular, spending 26 weeks at the top of the New York Times Fiction Best-Seller’s List, but received mixed reviews from critics.
The book was a strong influence on the 2001 film, The Royal Tenebaums, which had only been out a few months before this episode aired.
Jess seems to have been careful to choose a non-romantic book, as Franny and Zooey are siblings who talk about philosophy together. Perhaps he is trying to tell Lorelai that he and Rory have an intellectual brother-sister relationship. (Later on, they do end up related to each other).
Franny does have a boyfriend in the book, but they don’t have much in common, and he doesn’t seem capable of understanding her (the boyfriend is named Lane!). When Franny is at a particularly low point, Zooey is able to get through to her by secretly talking to her on the telephone, and giving her some words of wisdom. When the phone call ends, Franny lies on the bed and smiles.
This might be a hint of what Rory and Jess’ nascent relationship is like. Unsatisfied with her boyfriend, Rory is enjoying her secret phone calls with Jess, which are on a different level to the conversations she has with Dean, and leave her smiling at the end. Although all this is offscreen and never directly referred to, we can see that their friendship has progressed and grown closer, and chances are they have continued talking on the phone in secret.