The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive

The Yearbook Office presents an excerpt from the New York Times bestselling The Gilmore Plot, by Jess Mariano. The Gilmore Plot has been praised as “a heartbreakingly insightful look at small town life” from the New York Review of Books, and the Guardian says that Mariano “captures the reckless frustration, sexuality, and ennui of the modern American young man”.

To start with, look at all the books. There were her Dorothy Parker collections, arranged not by title but by most biting quote potential; there was the complete Oxford English Dictionary, a gift from her father on the occasion of her debutante coming out appearance, one year after his credit card was declined in his original attempt to purchase these volumes for her; there were the carefully-highlighted textbooks assigned in her Chilton courses, a lot of Hemingway, a smidgen of Dickens, along with good helpings of Austen, Faulkner, and the man of the people, Shakespeare. There were the Dan Brown and Mitch Albom books she read on the sly. There were the volumes of Judy Blume, belonging to her mother. There was, in short, this mid-size library leeched throughout her bedroom representing pretty much everything Rory had read in childhood and adolescence, a collection of texts which an idiot might assume was chosen at random. An individual who really knew her, however, would trace the ever-narrowing focus, finally arriving at the outcome that made you feel different depending on if you were the guy she was dating or the guy that she should be dating: “The Most Special Girl in the World”.

She could see her grandparents waiting outside. They were waiting on the front porch that was only standing at all due to construction interference run by the town’s diner owner, who substituted handyman work for the love he felt for Rory’s mother. Richard was in a pin-striped suit and bow tie, with Emily in a coral suit and matching pumps. Anyone could tell that they were rich, but Jess could see more. After all, Rory wasn’t the only one who could see them right at this moment; Jess liked to stand guard near the Gilmore home. This was the appropriate place for a young man like him, a young man who knew Rory better than she knew herself. Jess was too smart for school, too smart for his mother, too smart for the diner owner who was also his uncle, too smart for Walmart, too smart for a never-picked-up CW pilot, too smart for Stars Hollow or Manhattan or Venice Beach. Jess knew that money was stupid and that the best literature comes from Philadelphia, two unrelated concepts that were nonetheless very important.

“This porch seems structurally unsound!” Richard greeted Rory as she answered the door in a black Betsey Johnson dress mostly likely purchased for her by her rich boyfriend Logan. The only designer label Jess believed in was American Apparel.

“Hi Grandpa, hi Grandma,” Rory greeted them as if Richard hasn’t insulted the fine construction work done by the diner owner. That was Rory’s way, to move the conversation along from untidy topics. Jess wanted to grab her by the delicate arms and force her to live in untidiness. Jess wanted Rory to know what real life was. It wasn’t money or Yale or answering phones when people called them.

“Rory?” Emily said. “Isn’t that your former delinquent boyfriend?”

Rory spun around on the porch. “Where?”

Jess stood across the street, as the middle-aged couple who owned the neighboring house rarely came outdoors during prime “cat hours”. Jess imagined the sort of people who thought that cats mattered and smiled at his superior intellect. People like him knew that the things that mattered were Salinger, old cars that appear to run badly but don’t, and leather jackets.

“Why is he there?” Emily said. Emily asked questions no one could answer because she felt that no one could stop her. Jess could stop her, if he wanted.

“Grandma, I don’t know,” Rory said. “Maybe he’s visiting Luke.”

“I’m not visiting Luke,” Jess said.

Rory stomped down the steps as Richard continued to discuss the integrity of the porch. Richard worked in insurance and therefore took interest in those sorts of household details. Jess had several things he could say about integrity, like the kind it takes to ignore the expected course of a high school education and instead becoming an Employee of the Month at a bustling Walmart. There was the integrity of finding your long-lost father and his girlfriend in California, a place too sunny for real contemplation. There was the integrity of coming back to a small, worthless town in Connecticut just to tell a girl what she deserved to hear.

“What are you doing here, Jess?” Rory said.

“You know what I’m doing here, Rory,” he said. “I know because I know you more than you know yourself.”

“I’m dating Logan now,” she said.

Logan was less of a person and more of a joke about wealth and fathers. He applied himself less to intellectual pursuits — though a so-called “Yale man” — and more to the variety of hair products that must line the vanity in his bathroom where Rory must sometimes or even often have spent time. When Jess imagined the mornings and afternoons and evenings Rory spent at this residence, he became filled with what lesser men would call rage. Jess however knew to focus not on the everyday vulgarities of Ivy League life, but on true intellect and understanding and also independent publishing.

“Good for you,” he said. “Date whoever you want. Logan doesn’t know you.”

Jess smiled again to himself and walked off from the front yard of the cat-loving homeowners. He thought about the kind of person who would “own” a “home” and smiled again. Jess was owned by nothing, except the knowledge of the interior of the brain of Rory Gilmore.

The Gilmore Plot is Mariano’s second book. His novella, Subsect, originally released in a small print run by Truncheon Books in 2005, was recently reissued by Random House. Mariano and his publisher Random House are currently the subjects of lawsuits being pursued by one Mr. Logan Huntzberger.