"Coffee at Luke's: An Unauthorized 'Gilmore Girls' Gabfest" is a Smart Pop series collection of essays put together by Jennifer Crusie, whose introduction points out the utter appropriateness of a bunch of people taking about "Gilmore Girls." As an overview she points out that the show always kept in mind the basic rules for great dialogue: keep it moving, give everybody the best lines, talk up to your audience, and remember that the best dialogue is the stuff you can't hear. For each of these she has choice examples, which will immediately cause you to counter with your own personal favorites, and suddenly you are sitting down and joining the conversation the back cover proposes when it suggests you have some coffee at Luke's.
The first section is entitled, "It All Comes Out in Moron: Personal Relationships." "Whimsy Goes with Everything" by Heather Swain argues that everybody in Stars Hollow is a little eccentric, but that Kirk is something special. "Boys Not Allowed" by Jennifer Armstrong explains why Lorelai had trouble staying engaged long enough to get married, an argument that extends to Rory since the Gilmore Girls are too busy to be messed up by mere mortal men. Stephanie Whiteside focuses on a particular relationship in "When Paris Met Rory," contending that they have one of the most problematical relationships in television history.
The second section, "The Other Relationship: Parenting," focuses more on Lorelia and Emily. In "Mothers, Daughters, and Gilmore Girls," Janine Hiddlestone analyzes the fears, disappointments, and triumphs of being a mother in Stars Hollow, focusing in the end on the reversal of Lorelai and her parents' roles when Rory dropped out of Yale. Stephanie Lehmann focuses on the "The Best-Friend Mom" idea as one of the biggest fantasies and concludes that such an ideal was no longer the case by the end of the sixth season. Charlotte Fullerton's "In Defense of Emily Gilmore" makes the case for Emily as the much maligned but third Gilmore Girl and draws a series of strong parallels between Emily and Lorelai. Miellyn Fitzwater looks at "My Three Dads," analyzing Rory's trio of father figures of Luke, Richard and Christopher in terms of the time, money, and emotional support each provides here. However, her quantitative judgment strikes me as being skewed by the money factor because her conclusion as to who comes out ahead runs counter to by watching the show.
"Second Hamlet to the Right: Stars Hollow" is the third section. Sara Morrison provides "Your Guide to the Real Stars Hollow Business World," providing a harsh dose of reality as to how the town's commerce would do in the real world (sadly Taylor's Olde Fashioned Soda Shoppe has a better chance of surviving, much more so than Luke's Diner, which has a three-times better chance of making it than the Dragonfly Inn). My favorite essay is Jill Winters' "Happiness Under Glass: The Truth about Lorelai and Life in Stars Hollow," which makes a strong case for Lorelai's ambivalence towards the town in which she lives (the "Emily Junior" section is especially telling). Stephanie Rowe's "It's Not Luke's Stubble" makes the case for Stars Hollow being quintessential New England in terms of intellectual snobbery, money, history, heritage, and winter.
The next section is called "The Best Things in Life: Food, Books, and Sex," with one essay on each. "Dining with the Gilmores" is Gregory Stevenson's look at how food is the show's third passion behind talking and reading, which ends up seeing the show's secular morality as "The Chewy Moral Center." Maryelizabeth Hart's "Reading, Rory, and Relationships" makes a compelling case for books and writing being shorthand for character and emotional development. Kristen Kidder's examines the way the young women on the show pay for losing their virginity, dealing with what happens to Paris, Rory and Lane in an essay that had to be entitled, "'That's What You Get, Folks, For Makin' Whoopee.'"
The final section, "There's Reality and Then There's Lorelai: 'Gilmore Girls' and the Real World," begins with an interesting idea. Chris McCubbin recasts "Gilmore Girls" as a 1952 screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks and starring Katharine Hepburn as Lorelai and Audrey Hepburn as Rory. The rest of the cast list is equally intriguing (William Holden as Luke, Agnes Moorhead as Emily, Vivian Vance as Sookie). From that starting point McCubbin explores the roots of the show in the fast-talking screwball comedies of the 1930s and 40s. Carol Cooper's "'Mama Don't Preach': Class, Culture, and Lorelai Gilmore as Bizarro-World Suffragette" reconsiders Lorelai's choices as being "so inexplicable she must be part of Bizzaro World," and concludes they are more bold than they are bizarre.
The back of the book includes a section of "Coffee at Luke's-isms" that explains veiled references in the essays from "7th Heaven" and "The actor became Alexis Bledel's real boyfriend off the show" to "Wicked Witch of the West" and "William Holden." This is the third completely unauthorized volume in the Smart Pop series that I have read and to date they have all provided food for thought in bite size morsels. So those essays that are not particularly interesting to read do not last long, which trades off against those where you would like to hear more of what the author has to say. Fans of "Gilmore Girls" will not be disappointed checking this out, especially since there are no new episodes to look forward to anymore.