The Secret History of Twin Peaks (Book Review)

Well, that was fast. Less than a week after it was available in my Audible library, I finished listening to The Secret History of Twin Peaks. Let’s be clear, I had been excited about the book since it was announced last summer, but it probably helped that I had five hours of driving packed into twenty four. So, on a rural sprawl past corn fields, rustic churches, farmhouses and way too many Trump Pence signs, I devoured most of this book. Yes, I was on my way to Cleveland for a routine doctor’s visit.
I’d like to disclose a few things right away. First, let’s talk about how I feel about reviews. A) Everything is subjective. How I feel about books, media and other content generally reflects my own standards, and definitely not everyone’s. I don’t have that kind of ego. B)I’m never going to waste my precious writing time discussing a book I couldn’t stand. So about 95 percent of the books I feature here will be material I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. So, spoiler, I gave this book a high rating on Goodreads.

Next, I’d like to say a few words on the franchise. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Twin Peaks was a short lived television series on ABC, created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. I won’t go into the overall plot and mood just yet, suffice it to say that most of the key episodes were directed by David Lynch. There were thirty episodes in all, running from 1990 to 1991, ending in a cliffhanger. After a ground breaking first season, the show declined halfway through season two, largely due to network interference (in my opinion, the biggest pitfall of commercial storytelling).
Twin Peaks ended with a cliff-hanger. It was followed in 1992 by a feature film, Fire Walk With Me. Fire didn’t so much wrap things up as add more layers to the story. It was specifically a prequel, following the last days of Laura Palmer, the pivotal character who is murdered before the first episode. The film wasn’t received as well by critics, probably because of its darker tone. While I won’t dismiss this popular criticism, I will offer my belief that the legacy of Twin Peaks should be perceived as a franchise rather than a thirty episode series with “tie-ins.” The film was received well by fans, who probably had views similar to my own. Each installment, from series to film to book, maintains a different tone, though the themes and spirit remain largely unchanged.

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All that being said, let’s move on The Secret History of Twin Peaks, the latest installment. Weighing in at 368 pages, the book is a series of transcripts, correspondences and interviews related to a dossier. The dossier is the subject of the novel, a heavy volume under review by the FBI. The book itself is commentated by a female agent known simply by the initials TP through most of the book, though we get a full name for her eventually. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say, TP will factor in to the new limited series airing on Showtime in 2017, the next installment in the series. TP offers her thoughts, commentary and fact checks while she reviews the dossier.   Throughout the course of TP’s read-through, we’re brought back into contact with both major and minor characters from the series and film. We’re also reintroduced to people and places from American history you might not have previously connected to the franchise. The read-through adds new layers to the town’s mythos and establishes some new mysteries for readers and TP herself, one of which–the identity of the dossier’s author, known originally as “The Archivist”–is solved by the end of the book.

So, let’s breakdown my over all take on the book. I should warn you that this next segment contains some potential spoilers, which I’ll highlight with triple asterisks, though I don’t feel anything I discuss will give anything crucial away.

WHAT WORKED FOR ME:

I’d start with the overall format. I have a soft spot for dossiers. It reminds me, somewhat, of Dracula or the dossier chapters from Ann Rice’s The Witching Hour. But it’s like Rice and Stoker had a baby after reading House of Leaves. I listened to the audiobook, but when my boyfriend brought the actual book over, I said, “this is how this book was meant to be enjoyed.” The visual aspect is an essential part of the full experience. And that’s coming from an audio book junkie.

You’ll find familiar faces all throughout the dossier. ***The expansion of Catherine Coulson’s Log Lady backstory (specifically her childhood) was delightful. Just delightful. And who wouldn’t love the file on Josie Packard written by Agent Dale Cooper?*** I have always been a big fan of in-story mythology, history and backstory, when it’s done beautifully. And The Secret History of Twin Peaks does it beautifully.

I also want to discuss a theory of mine which was all but confirmed by the middle chapters. ***I’m talking about the UFO element, specifically. It has been a strong belief of mine that Mark Frost or David Lynch were either somewhat influenced by or tapping into a related stream of Ufologist and writer John A. Keel. Keel was mentioned by me in a previous entry, “Grinning Man: The Curious Case of Indrid Cold.” Keel’s belief was that paranormal experiences associated with UFO’s were not the work of “shy aliens” but naturally occurring, domestic entities he termed “ultra-terrestrials,” similar to fairies or elementals. Demons or fallen angels in some cases. I first read The Mothman Prophecies while I was watching Twin Peak’s original series. I took note of Keel’s description of metaphysical entities like the Men in Black’s odd speech habits. He cited actual Men in Black witnesses who claimed these characters often stuttered and used out dated phrases. It was like, he concluded, they were adjusting to our time frame. Keel felt such entities lived outside our space-time continuum, and had trouble bridging the gap after the transition. I couldn’t help but feel reminded of the Man from Another Place, one of the most iconic characters of the series. I don’t need to describe the Man from Another Place if you’re familiar with the series. He’s, arguably the most recognizable, next to the Log Lady. I do need to mention his backwards way of speaking and the way he seems to be sped up and then slowed down during his original appearance (watch the first red room scene on YouTube if you don’t believe me). I should also mention the silhouette of what could be a flying saucer behind the red curtains, after the Man rubs his hands together. This theory of mine was brought up by Douglas Milford, the dossier’s central character, on two key occasion’s. I think it’s safe to say this will probably be explored during the upcoming Showtime season.***

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WHAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME:

This is more of a criticism than a complaint. It’s also kind of minor. I felt the book, as a whole, was lacking some of its feminine weight. It felt, towards the end especially, a bit too masculine at times. Twin Peaks as a franchise always had a feminine balance. ***I’m sure this was due to the Archivist being a male character (not such a spoiler. The audiobook has a male performer for the character), and the fact that the dossier pleasantly expands on the friendship between the Archivist and the character of Douglas Milford.*** I feel this was also done to mirror the relationship between Sheriff Harry Truman and Agent Dale Cooper. But again, this is a minor criticism.

OVERALL:

The Secret History of Twin Peaks was a pleasant experience for me, esthetically and thematically. The journalistic side was top notch. The affection between the characters seemed real. I was engrossed, the way a good thriller or a mystery engrosses most people, but I also felt my philosophical side being fed. Definitely, worth the long car trip. I’m going to have to read the hard copy once my boyfriend is done with it.
I gave The Secret History of Twin Peaks a 4 star rating on my Goodreads page.

 

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