In Gilmore Girls, the fastest-talking TV dramedy of the 00’s, Rory Gilmore is continually seen reading a wide array of books. Inspired by the blue-eyed bookworm herself, it’s time once more to take a leaf out of Rory’s books and read Rory’s books.
This quaint and curious volume of the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is covered by Hollen Singleton.
“THERE WAS BLOOD upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame. For a moment, she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold—then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.”
When I imagine Rory Gilmore reading The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, I see her elfin nose wrinkling in distaste. It’s difficult to imagine preppy, bright spark Rory enjoying stories like ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’.
Poe is, however, a literary classic, and very American, in line with a lot of Rory’s reading list. And Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, basically a stone’s throw across the state line from Stars Hollow, Connecticut.
I loved Poe; I read him most between eleven and thirteen. (Thirteen was also the age of Poe’s great love at the time of their marriage: his first wife and first cousin.) I named my own black cat Hades, a shadow of Pluto, the starring feline of Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’. He, also, grew into “a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black and sagacious to an astonishing degree”. I can recite almost the entire, dreary ‘The Raven’ from memory, something I have done in front of friends and acquaintances, to my deep and constant regret. I would make a worthy member of the Poe Society (season three, episode 17). The Poes are true to the memory of their hero: they are rude, pretentious and publicly combative.
Poe spent quite a chunk of his life in poverty, scheming, lying, playing to his audiences. And how can you blame him? A child of actors—a lowly thing to be—he nonetheless went about telling people he wished to be a writer and a poet. I love his sheer hide; I love him gambling to gather funds for university and burning his furniture to stay warm at night.
I loved The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe because I got it at about age ten from a gorgeous second-hand bookstore: shabby, cluttered, magical, closed now.
“You want that?” said the bookseller.
“How much?” said my parents.
“The kid can take that,” said the bookseller.
It had taken us twelve hours to drive to Melbourne from our small home town. The shop was located on Brunswick Street, a place that presented me with a cartoonishly outsized version of what I wanted from a place to live. I took that book and I thought, This is it for me.
The episode ‘A Tale of Poes and Fires’ opens on Rory and Lorelei making one of their exhausting/adorable “pros and cons” lists. They are plotting Rory’s escape from her small town, her adventure out into the real world of university (either Harvard, Yale or Princeton—no less for our bright spark).
In Stars Hollow, as in many fictional locales and in real life in many ways, the city inflects upon the small town. The reverse is not true. People in small towns must justify their choice and live in the condescending shadow of their nearest CBD in a way that city people do not: they do not live in constant comparison to their rural surrounds.
Rory must leave Stars Hollow—it is her destiny, her just desserts. Her potential is rocket-fuel with which to smoke that small town. It’s a narrative older than Poe and equally canonised: the big fish migrates to the big pond. At the episode’s end, Rory chooses Yale, the school attended by generations of Gilmores. I did move to Melbourne, too, as soon as I could. I keep my Complete Tales beside my bed, one of the few physical copies of books about which I am actually sentimental. It is nice, a hardcover with charcoal illustrations. The back cover is torn in diagonal gouges—hyper-poetically shredded by the claws of Hades, now long dead (demon, beast, best, cat).
Hollen Singleton is a Jess Mariano-Paris Gellar type, aspires to be an Emily Gilmore but would settle for Kirk.
Want to check out Rory’s library? Browse the full list.