Rory’s Books from the Buy a Book Fundraiser

Rory buys several books at the fundraiser, but only a couple of the titles are visible. Gypsy the mechanic is volunteering her time to work at the fundraiser, and she points Rory to the astronomy section, as if Rory has an interest in this area, and Gypsy somehow knows about it. Both quite surprising things to learn! The Buy a Book Fundraiser is held outside the library, and may be raising funds for new books.

Inherit the Wind

A 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, fictionalising the events of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. This was a legal trial in July 1925 where schoolteacher John Scopes was taken to court by the state of Tennessee for teaching human evolution. There was intense media scrutiny of the case, with publicity given to the high-profile lawyers who had taken the case. The prosecution had former Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, while Clarence Darrow defended Scopes – the same lawyer who had defended child murders Leopold and Loeb, previously discussed. Scopes was fined $100, but the case was overturned on a technicality. The case was seen as both a theological contest, and a test as to whether teachers could teach modern science in schools.

The play gives everyone involved in the Scopes Trial different names, and substantially alters numerous events. It is not meant to be a historical account, and is a means to discuss the McCarthy trials of the 1950s, where left-wing individuals were persecuted as Communist sympathisers, under a regime of political repression and a fear-mongering campaign.

Rory might be particularly interested in the play because of the focus it places on the media, with reporter E.K. Hornbeck covering the case for a fictional Baltimore newspaper. He is based on journalist and author H.L. Mencken, previously discussed as one of Rory’s heroes, who gained attention for his satirical reporting on the Scopes Trial for the Baltimore Morning Herald.

Inherit the Wind premiered in Dallas in 1955 to rave reviews, and opened on Broadway a few months later with Paul Muni, Ed Begley, and Tony Randall in the cast. It’s been revived on Broadway in 1996 and in 2007, as well as in Philadelphia, London, Italy, and India.

It was adapted into film in 1960, directed by Stanley Kramer, and with Spencer Tracey starring as the defence lawyer, Dick York as the schoolteacher, and Gene Kelly as the Baltimore journalist. It received excellent reviews and won awards at the Berlin Film Festival. It’s also been made for television in 1966, 1988, and in 1999 (starring George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon, and Beau Bridges). It seems likely that Rory watched the most recent version on television.

Letters to a Young Poet

A 1929 collection of ten letters written by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, to a young officer cadet named Franz Xaver Kappus at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt, Austria between 1902 and 1908.

Kappus had written to Rilke, seeking advice on the quality of his poetry, to help him choose between a literary career, or one as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Kappus had been reading Rilke’s poetry when he discovered that Rilke had earlier studied at the academy’s lower school in St. Pölten, and decided to write to him for advice.

Rilke gave Kappus very little criticism or suggestions on improving his writing, and said that nobody could advise him or make life decisions for him. Over the course of ten letters, he instead provided essays on how a poet should feel and seek truth in experiencing the world around him. They offer insights into Rilke’s poetic ideas and themes, and his work processes.

Kappus did meet Rilke at least once, and despite his concerns about pursuing a military career, he continued his studies and served for 15 years as an army officer. During the course of his life, he worked as a journalist and reporter, and wrote poems, stories, novels, and screenplays. However, he never achieved lasting fame.

This is a book which features a future journalist – but one who yearns to become a poet. Is it a sign that Rory secretly wishes she could become a creative writer instead? Is she hoping that being successful in journalism will help her become a published author (it’s definitely a help in getting novels published, or at least considered). Is it even a hint that she will become a writer in the future, as she does in A Year in the Life, but is not destined to become famous from her writing? (Most published writers, even quite successful ones, don’t get famous, after all).

And is this correspondence between a poet and a student at a military academy meant to suggest that Rory is still thinking of Tristan, who went away to military school? Are she and Tristan actually writing to each other, or is the show leaving the door open for Tristan to possibly return in a future season, since they didn’t know how long One Tree Hill was going to last?

Ernest Hemingway

JESS: Okay, tomorrow I will try again, and you will . . .
RORY: Give the painful Ernest Hemingway another chance. Yes, I promise.
JESS: You know, Ernest only has lovely things to say about you.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), author, journalist, and sportsman. He is famous for his economical and understated style, which had a profound influence on 20th century fiction, while his public image and adventurous lifestyle brought many admirers. He produced most of his work during the 1920s to the 1950s, and was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

Hemingway’s hard, lean prose style and strongly masculinist ethos (to the point where it sometimes seems misogynistic) seem at odds with the more diffuse, subtle writing that Rory seems to appreciate. The irony is that Hemingway was a journalist, which helped to hone his spare writing style.

I’m not sure exactly what Jess means by “Ernest only has lovely things to say about you”, but in his works, brunettes are usually good, while blondes are bad (hm, rather like Gilmore Girls). Hemingway married four times times, three times to fellow journalists, as Rory plans to be.

Rory’s Bookshelf

When Rory shows Richard her bedroom, he checks out her bookshelf. Here are some of the books we can see:

Summer of Fear

A 1993 serial killer novel by T. Jefferson Parker, who writes bestselling police procedural novels set in California. Parker is a journalist who turned novelist – perhaps a tiny hint of where Rory’s career is eventually headed.

The Scarecrow of Oz

A 1915 children’s book by L. Frank Baum, the ninth in his series of Oz books. The Wizard of Oz is a touchstone for Gilmore Girls, and this seems to be a little nod to the land of Oz. The Scarecrow from the original story is the magical helper (the one who didn’t have a brain, but was actually quite smart), and the human protagonists are a man and a little girl from California.


A 1985 science novel by scientist Carl Sagan. The heroine is a scientist named Ellie who showed a strong aptitude for science and mathematics from a young age, and has been left emotionally bereft by the loss of her father, with a problematic relationship with her mother. Contact with an alien civilisation allows Ellie a strange chance to reconnect with her memories of her father. It feels like something that would resonate with Rory. Ellie is also from California. The novel was a bestseller, and made into a film in 1997, starring Jodie Foster. The film might have given Rory an interest in reading the novel.

The Apocalyptics: Cancer and the Big Lie

Edith Efron was a journalist who began her career at the New York Times Magazine, became a member of Ayn Rand’s circle and wrote for her magazine, and then became editor of TV Guide at the height of its popularity. She was critical of what she perceived as “liberal bias in the media”, but provided a strong voice on race relations (Efron had a biracial son during 1950s segregation). She later wrote for the libertarian publication, Reason. The Apocalyptics is a 1984 exposé of the cancer industry and a criticism of environmental policy which Efron saw as being based on “bad science” (basically saying Rachel Carson etc were all a bunch of doom-merchants). It’s an obscure, controversial, and extremely heavy-going work. An intriguing insight into Rory’s interests.

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do

A 1974 non-fiction book by oral historian and radio broadcaster Louis “Studs” Terkel. An exploration of what makes work meaningful for people, based on interviews with people from all walks of life. It was a bestseller, and turned into a Broadway musical in 1977, and a graphic novel in 2009.

A book by “Tobias Allcot”

This seems to be a fictional book which would have been created by the props department as a slightly odd joke. Tobias Allcot is the name of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author in the film The Man from Elysian Fields, directed by George Hinkenlooper; James Coburn portrays Allcot. The film wasn’t released until September 2002, but had been shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2001.

Censorship in a Small Town

PARIS: Our story. Censorship in a small town, it’s perfect.
RORY: Paris, stop it. You know I don’t believe in censorship.
PARIS: Even better, small town minds run amok.

Paris is right – this is actually an interesting story, showing how in small towns, a tiny minority of people (Kirk and Taylor) can wield enough power to crush free speech entirely. Rory says she doesn’t believe in censorship, but she literally asked for an R-rated DVD to be put in a different section of the video store. That’s censorship!

The Franklin’s “Competition”

PARIS: Flescher Prep Gazette, Broadmouth Banner, Richmond Heights Chronicle – these publications are not our competition … The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post – these publications are our competition.

The high school magazines Paris mentions are fictional, while the competition she identifies are major news publications, all previously discussed.

The Oppenheimer Award for Excellence

PARIS: The Oppenheimer Award for Excellence in school journalism is not a contest. It’s a statement. It says you’re the best. The best writers, the best reporters, the best editors. It says that you have crushed all others who have dared to take you on. It says that every other single school in the United States of America is feeling nothing but shame and defeat and pain because of the people who won the Oppenheimer plaque. I wanna be those people, I wanna cause that pain.

The Oppenheimer Award for Excellence seems to have been named in honour of Jess Oppenheimer (1913-1988) [pictured], the creator, producer, and head writer of the sitcom I Love Lucy, starring Lucille Ball. Lucille Ball called him “the brains” behind Lucy, and he was the creative driving force of the show. (Jess may also be named after Oppenheimer!).

In real life, there are the National Pacemaker Awards in student journalism, which has a category for high school newspapers. They are administered by the National Scholastic Press Association. Founded in 1927, they are the student equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes, and for that category the deadline is in June. There is no plaque handed out as a prize.

We never discover whether The Franklin won the award, but it is never mentioned again, suggesting that it didn’t.

Robert Benchley at The Algonquin

RORY: Fine, but we have a real problem here.
LORELAI: Oh, you think I don’t know that? You think I sit around all day swapping witticisms with Robert Benchley at The Algonquin? No! I am thinking and worrying and using the computer, and I hate using the computer!

Robert Benchley (1889-1945), a humorist best known as a newspaper columnist and film actor. He began writing for The Harvard Lampoon while at Harvard University, before writing for Vanity Fair, and most famously, The New Yorker, where his absurdist essays proved highly influential. He made several appearances in films, and his 1935 film How to Sleep, won an Academy Award in the Short Film category.

The Algonquin Hotel is a historic hotel in Manhattan, which first opened in 1902. It had a reputation for hosting a number of literary and theatrical celebrities, including The Algonquin Round Table (or as they called themselves, “the Vicious Circle”). This group of New York writers, critics, actors, and wits met for lunch each day at The Algonquin from 1919 to 1929, engaging in witticisms which were disseminated across the country through their newspaper columns.

Robert Benchley was one of its most prominent members, and Lorelai is probably referencing the writer and critic Dorothy Parker, previously discussed. Dorothy Parker was a close friend of Robert Benchley, and one of the founding members of The Algonquin Round Table.

[Picture shows a painting of Dorothy Parker at The Algonquin Round Table by Carl Purcell]

A.J. Benza

LOUISE: Princess Grace didn’t go to college.
PARIS: Thank you for the history lesson, A.J. Benza.

Alfred Joseph “A.J.” Benza (born 1962) is an American gossip columnist and television host. He began as a gossip columnist on the New York Daily News, and in the mid-1990s began appearing on The Gossip Show on E! Entertainment Television, leading to appearances on several chat shows. From 1998 to 2001 he was the host of Mysteries and Scandals on the E! Network.

“Mr. Cosell”

EMILY: She [Rory] got home from school, but she just went right upstairs. Now she didn’t want a snack, but I had Rosa make her one anyway. I haven’t checked to see if she’s eaten it. She had a decent breakfast this morning, but she did seem a little tired, and when I went into her bathroom the aspirin bottle was out, so I assume she had a headache. Now, I don’t know if it was last night or …
LORELAI: Excuse me, Mr. Cosell. I appreciate the play-by-play but I just want to talk to my daughter now.

Howard Cosell, born Howard Cohen (1918-1995) was an American sports journalist who entered sports broadcasting in the 1950s, and in the 1970s became the commentator for Monday Night Football on ABC. He completely changed the style of sportscasting towards one of context and analysis, similar to hard news journalism, and is regarded as the greatest American sports commentator of all time. Lorelai compares Emily’s blow-by-blow account of Rory’s activities to Cosell’s in depth analysis of a football game.

Emily’s speech shows her hyper-controlling style of micromanagement. Rory has only been home from school for around an hour, but has had her every move and mood scrutinised, been given a snack after saying she didn’t want one, and had her bathroom searched after leaving it. It’s a telling insight into what Lorelai’s childhood must have been like, and into what Rory’s would have been like if Lorelai had remained living with her parents after becoming a mother.

Emily allows no autonomy, choice, or privacy, and keeps people under surveillance as if they are in prison (remember Lorelai, an adult, could not even say she was going to the toilet without being followed?). It’s really hard to blame Lorelai for fleeing her childhood home because of these circumstances, fearing that Rory would have to endure the same childhood she did.