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.

42.) Complete Novels of Dawn Powell

Rory Gilmore mentions Dawn Powell in the episode ‘Help Wanted’, where she desperately tries to convince people that Jess wasn’t to blame for the car accident she was in – but her pleas fall on deaf ears.

Rory mentions Powell because she was a prolific writer who fell into relative obscurity, and is often credited with coming up with some of Dorothy Parker’s famous witticisms.

And let me tell you that I am so glad Rory has educated me about Dawn Powell: I’m quite a fan of the ‘mean cocktail people who make devastating bon mots and are generally unhappy’ style of books, such as Dorothy Parker and even Evelyn Waugh, and Dawn Powell is a master of this. Her books are just as funny as Parker’s, but seem to have a more bitter edge, and even a kind of stylistic depth that plays out the pathos more.


The RGRC list includes ‘The Complete Novels by Dawn Powell’, which isn’t actually a publication, so I decided to read a few short stories and her novel A Time to Be Born, which is hilarious, and about a small-town woman coming to New York after a failed love affair, and basically being thrown to the sharks. Everyone in this book is either a fool or a shark, and neither are treated well.

This book actually made me think of the episode where Christopher’s girlfriend, Sherry, is having her baby, and we’re introduced to her circle of career-focused friends. There is something very Dawn Powell in the way that Sherry and these women try to schedule and ‘big city’ something as earthy as childbirth.


When Sherry goes into labour a week earlier than she expected, none of her friends show up, and Rory is left to deal with it on her own. The repeated refrain that Sherry’s best friend says when she’s phoning Rory is “Sherry screwed up!”, which becomes darkly hilarious after a while. In this situation, Sherry becomes the fool, but is desperately yearning to be a shark again. Rory is also a fool, in the sense that she is naïve and almost powerless, drawn into the absurd world, forced to send faxes and act as secretary for a woman literally pushing a baby out of her vagina.

Of course, where Gilmore Girls is different to Dawn Powell is the deep degree of sympathy for all the fools. A Time to Be Born was hilarious and dark and witty, but I definitely wanted a Lorelei to come in and fix everyone up, with great love and empathy and snappy dialogue.

Curious to see the full reading list? You can view it here.

Patrick Lenton is a blogger at The Spontaneity Review and the author of A Man Made Entirely of Bats. He is the recipient of the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and shortlisted for the Scribe Nonfiction Prize. He’s a digital marketer at Momentum books. | @PatrickLenton