In Gilmore Girls, aka the best show ever written, bright-eyed Rory Gilmore is continually seen reading a wide array of books. Whether in preparation for Harvard or for her time at Yale, she is always improving herself via literature.
Juxtapose this with Patrick Lenton, who found himself re-reading The Wheel of Time for the seventeenth time, grimly hoping the ingrained misogyny might somehow disappear if he just believed hard enough. What happened to his days of challenging himself? What about that one time he read Moby Dick and felt good for eight years? Patrick decided to take a leaf out of Rory’s books and read Rory’s books.
This week’s Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is covered by guest reviewer Bridget Lutherborrow.
47.) Cousin Bette
The last time I encountered Balzac in the RGRC was for the book Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, and I spent the entire review referring to him as “Ballsack”. As lacking in maturity and creativity as this may be, having now read Cousin Bette I stand by my actions.
Cousin Bette is an ugly, unmarried middle-aged virgin, so of course she’s extremely jealous of her pretty married cousin and also a bit of a lesbian for good measure. Scorned one too many times, Bette plots revenge on her entire extended family with the help of younger, prettier Valérie. In many ways the gender politics of the story don’t really measure up. And let’s just say any references to race in the book are very 1846. Balzac basically strides across each page on hammy arms knocking over piles of gold coins – that’s how subtle it is.
I couldn’t figure out where they reference Cousin Bette in Gilmore Girls, but can only assume Bette is a figure Lorelai would have identified in some flippant joking way. “What, ho! An unmarried woman at that age! Must be full of spite. Oi with the poodles already,” etc.
There are many descriptions of Bette throughout the book:
“Her piercing glance, her olive skin, her reed-like figure, might invite a half-pay major; but she was satisfied, she would say laughing, with her own admiration.”
“Her willingness to oblige, which knew no bounds when it was not demanded of her, was indeed, like her assumed bluntness, a necessity of her position.”
“Jealousy was the fundamental passion of this character, marked by eccentricities – a word invented by the English to describe the craziness not of the asylum, but of the respectable households.”
Balzac’s observations are made in such a way that you can imagine them as the #hottakes they once were. Being mad topical and sounding witty even when the reference passes your audience by are both things Balzac has in common with Gilmore Girls.
Personally, I think the Cousin Bette story – with all its melodrama and morality – would be great as a Ten Things I Hate About You-style teen movie. I’d love to see how the storyline might adapt to contemporary concerns.
In the case of Gilmore Girls, I can’t wait to see how the new episodes approach the last ten years of pop culture and politics. How much sweet grandma content is Emily producing? What new and wonderful things does Luke hate? Who will go viral first, Kirk or Taylor? Which Rory boyfriend has the biggest arms now? Etc.
Curious to see the full reading list? You can view it here.
Bridget Lutherborrow is a fiction writer and PhD candidate who perhaps already has enough challenging things to read. Nevertheless, after rewatching seven seasons of caffeine fuelled mother-daughter drama with RGRC regular Patrick, she’s decided to chip in and review a few things.