A well-paced coming of age novel, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer was Jennifer Lynch’s Twin Peaks companion published between the first and second seasons of the original series. Thematically, the book emerged as a Girl versus Self saga. Unsettling, yet completely relateable, Lynch’s Diary gave us the most character driven Twin Peaks installment.
The following review will give you my two cents on Palmer‘s readability with an added bonus: In the aftermath, I’ll discuss how Jennifer Lynch’s 27 year old book ties into the latest episodes of the ongoing series.
what worked for me
Ultimately, I’m a sucker for dysfunctional, girl meets world stories. My favorite novel is Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, the sleeper-hit about a jailed poet’s daughter touring the Los Angeles foster system. At times, I felt like I was re-experiencing the novel. It wasn’t just in terms of writing, or Lynch’s voice. The Secret Diary takes the readers to some gritty, erotic places. Our protagonist might be a teenager for most of the story (the journal opens with Laura at age twelve), but it’s by no means teen fiction.
I spoke earlier of the book feeling relateable to me. During some essential scenes, Laura discovers masturbation, experiments with peers and indulges in drugs and alcohol for the first time. Lynch treats these scenes tenderly. They’re in no means placed for shock factor. They felt to me like core pieces to a rite of passage section of the novel. Jennifer Lynch had full control of her project, and she knew exactly where the character was going to go.
I can certainly speak about the nostalgia factor. Characters like James, Bobby and Margaret “the Log Lady” Lanterman are of course revisted, but it’s more about fleshing out the world of the heroine and expanding the source material’s back stories than name dropping for emotional brownie points. Key meetings between Laura and her world of friends, enemies and lovers are described before they are even referenced on the show. We go as far as to visit Blackie–always an overlooked favorite of mine–and the mysterious Tremonds (who I’ll be referencing later in the article).
what didn’t work for me
I guess it’s a good thing I have to think about this. It’s not a perfect story, but anything critical I’d have to say by this point would sound overtly subjective, so I’ll just leave this blank, more or less. You’ll find your own shortcomings and peeves with Laura’s secret diary. Perhaps they’ll be more credible than mine.
Secret Diary is pleasantly linear. If you want a break from literary fiction, but don’t feel like sacrificing story for genre, pick up Lynch’s Twin Peaks companion. If you want to bone-up for the new installment of the franchise, read this book. If you want a novel that feels like it encompasses all the basics of human life (contact with the spiritual included), pick it up. I gave Laura Palmer five stars on Goodreads.
how it relates to Twin Peaks (2017)
Most noticeably, Laura Palmer’s secret diary became the subject of two episodes of Twin Peaks’ newest arc. The missing pages referenced in Jennifer Lynch’s book are discovered in the Sheriff’s station by Deputy Hawk. They contain the warning issued by Cooper’s lover Annie Blackburn about the fate of the FBI agent and his doppelganger, as referenced by the Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me. However, there is still one missing page undiscovered.
The latest episode, “Gotta Light?”, tied into Lynch’s book more subtly. By now, we’ve all seen the mystifying scene featuring the unnamed Giant, during which a gold globe is selected by a female entity bearing Laura Palmer’s face. The sphere is kissed lovingly and sent to North America on Earth. This is a follow-up scene to the 1945, White Sands, New Mexico atomic bomb testing sequence, during which we presumably witness the birth of Laura’s oppressor Bob (or “BOB.” I’ve seen it typed both ways). The consensus, at the time I’m writing this, seems to be that Laura was created to counter-balance or oppose Bob. If this is the case, it was first stated by The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, where the protagonist determines to defeat him and do everything within her power to break his control over her.
And now we return to those troubling Tremonds (also known as the Chalfonts, but that would be better suited by a further entry). Laura encounters the boy and his grandmother during Fire Walk With Me, but they are also referenced in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer before they ever appear on screen. During the last pages, while Laura is trying to better herself by organizing the Meals on Wheels program, she has an encounter with the grandson, here called Pierre. The name Pierre is applied to him elsewhere, like the non-canonical trading cards. During the scene, Pierre performs a magic trick, pulling a coin from behind Laura’s ear.
Fast forward to Twin Peaks (2017), to the episode entitled “Don’t Die.” Here we witness an unsettling scene between two characters credited as Red and Richard Horne. Red, played Balthazar Getty of Lost Highway, performs a magic trick with a dime in which he breaks the laws of physics and performs transfiguration, apparently. While it’s established the gangster Red is from out of town, Richard Horne is skeptical, seeing as the older criminal seems to know Twin Peaks so well.
Here’s my theory: I’m proposing Red and Pierre are essentially “one and the same,” to quote the Giant (or the Giant’s doppelganger; I was never quite clear). Red is either Pierre grown up or plays host to the child a la Mike Gerard and MIKE. Most likely, it would be the latter. Regardless, I feel there must be some connection, as Red’s most pivotal episode thus far happened to be the first time we saw the (New) Fat Trout Trailer Park in 2017, sight of the missing Chalfont trailer. Ultimately, time will have to tell.