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TV’s most unforgettable literary moments

TV characters who found solace and meaning through literature. By Ken W

'Friends? Ha! These are my only friends: Grown-up nerds like Gore Vidal,' exclaims Lisa Simpson, referring to the sui-generis author of such controversial works as 1948's 'The City and the Pillar'. The gutsy Simpson is not the only prominent dramatis personae who has found solace and meaning through literature on the small screen – she is in good and varied company, alongside a flamboyant group of jailbirds, an adman with an inexorable libido, a fast-talking Stars Hollow native... and Joey Tribbiani.

Rory the well-read valedictorian

Rory the well-read valedictorian

'Gilmore Girls'

It is said that Rory Gilmore read or referenced over 300 books during ‘Gilmore Girls’s storied seven-season stint in the 2000s, with her touching valedictorian speech during her high school graduation ceremony in season three emblematic of her love for the written word. ‘I live in two worlds. One is a world of books,’ begins the younger Gilmore and future Yale graduate. Evoking the dramedy’s penchant for pop-cultural references and quick-fire dialogue, she goes on to namecheck Eudora Welty, Jane Austen, Anna Karenina, Ignatius J Reilly and William Faulkner, among other literary greats and characters, in a tearjerker of a speech.

Four 90-minute episodes of the much-anticipated ‘Gilmore Girls’ revival have been confirmed for a Netflix release later this year.

Don’s journey through hell

Don’s journey through hell

'Mad Men'

Aside from his day job as a debonair adman at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and extracurricular activities as a serial adulterer, Don Draper is quite the accomplished bookworm. ‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner has long employed books and literature in the show to offer insight into a character’s state of mind, and Don, whose reading list ranges from Frank O’Hara poems to ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’, is no different. In the season six opener, Don is seen nonchalantly reading Dante’s ‘Inferno’ on a Hawaiian beach, in a scene many consider as the critically acclaimed drama’s most effervescent literary moment. Dante’s journey through the nine circles of hell serves as the perfect allegory for Don’s hellish descent into despair in the penultimate season of ‘Mad Men’.

Watch every ‘Mad Men’ episode on Netflix.

Lisa meets her heroes

Lisa meets her heroes

'The Simpsons'

Over the course of 27 seasons, Matt Groening’s influential animated series boasts a cultural awareness that is high in satire and wit, thanks in part to Lisa Simpson’s adoration of books and all things literature. The precocious middle Simpson child has been seen in the company of timeless tomes and prominent literary figures over the years. Who could forget her night-time visit by the talkinghead visions of her five feminist heroes, led by social theorist/author Simone de Beauvoir and cultural anthropologist/author Margaret Mead? The funniest literary cameo on ‘The Simpsons’, however, belongs to Amy Tan of ‘The Joy Luck Club’ fame, who dismisses Lisa’s interpretation of her iconic novel during a Springfield Festival of Books panel: ‘Please, just sit down. I’m embarrassed for both of us.’

Catch Lisa and the rest of Springfield’s finest on Astro. Check www.astro.com.my for updates.

Joey and his Little Women

Joey and his Little Women


Between mentions of Danielle Steel and ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘Friends’ was peppered with nifty literary references throughout its wildly successful ten-season run. In season three’s ‘The One Where Monica and Richard are Just Friends’, the second coming of Monica and Richard’s ultimately doomed relationship supplies the drama, but it’s Joey and Rachel’s hilarious book-swap that’s the harbinger of laughs. Joey agrees to read but struggles to comprehend Louisa May Alcott’s seminal ‘Little Women’, while Rachel takes on Joey’s modern classic ‘The Shining’. Joey unwittingly spoils the end of the Stephen King horror novel for a non-toohappy Rachel, who returns the favour with a ‘Little Women’ spoiler of her own.

Watch every 'Friends' episode on iflix.

The books they lost in the fire

The books they lost in the fire

'Orange is the New Black'

The Litchfield Penitentiary library offers solace to Piper and gang, who talk Cedric Diggory and dismiss ‘Ulysses’ during most of their time in custody. Suffice to say, literature plays a pivotal role in this hit Netflix original series based on Piper Kerman’s namesake memoir. But when a bed bug infestation plagues Litchfield in the third season, all the books in the library are begrudgingly burned. It results in Poussey and Taystee holding a memorable eulogy for the much-adored classics they lost: ‘Great Expectations’, ‘The BFG’, as well as ‘… the Jonathans: Swift, Lethem, Tropper, Franzen, Kellerman, Livingston Seagull’. Don’t feel bad for the literature-starved inmates though. By the time the season draws to a close, donated books slowly populate the now-bed-bug-free library.

Catch up on Piper and company’s jailhouse book club on Netflix, which is set to release season four in mid-June.