Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: The Secret History of Twin Peaks

The Secret History of Twin Peaks The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this while enjoying a piece of cherry pie and a cup of damn good black coffee after installing my silent drape runners. And lemme tell you about this crazy dream I had last night. I was in this room with red curtains….

OK, those are the obvious references, but I’m new to Twin Peaks fandom so cut me some slack. Honestly, I’ve always been kind of fascinated by David Lynch’s work, but I struggled mightily with it because I’m the kind of person who needs the story to make some kind of sense at the end of the day. So Lynchian style dream logic just isn’t my bag.

Or at least it didn’t used to be until all the hype about the return of Twin Peaks got my curiosity up enough to finally work my way through the two seasons of the original show after and the prequel movie Fire Walk With Me. Something clicked for me this time with the whole story about the murder of high school girl in this weird town even if that second season is a real slog at times. And I was utterly transfixed and mesmerized with the return to it over 25 years later. So that’s how I ended up reading this, and as you’d expect from show co-creator Mark Frost even a tie-in book couldn’t be simple.

This came out before the return of the show, and it’s obviously meant to fill in some gaps and lay groundwork. The concept is that what we’re reading is a file compiled by a mysterious archivist who proceeds to link the town of Twin Peaks and the stories of some of its residents to a vast conspiracy that stretches back to the days of the Lewis and Clark expedition. In fact, it’s like a Grand Unified Theory of Conspiracy Theories that includes pretty much everything from Freemasons to Roswell to the JFK assassination along with references to real people like Thomas Jefferson, Richard Nixon, and L. Ron Hubbard.

The impressive thing here is how well this is done so that it actually doesn’t seem that batshit crazy if you’ve seen the show. The structure is particularly interesting in that it’s an epistolary novel using a variety of sources ranging from newspaper accounts to top secret government documents with notes from the archivist which connect the dots. Another layer to this is that we’re actually supposed to be reading this as a report from a FBI agent (One who becomes a character in the new season.) who is vetting the file and adding her own comments and notes to what the archivist is saying as well as trying to figure out his identity.

If you were only reading this to get questions answered from the show then it might be frustrating because while there are sections that deal with the familiar characters a great deal is just about this wide ranging conspiracy about UFOs. Sort of.

The main link is that we learn that a minor character from the original run of the show actually had a whole secret life tied into this vast conspiracy which also connects it all back to the town and its citizens. By the end it all comes full circle so that it makes sense. (Or as much sense as anything in Twin Peaks ever does.) It was probably slightly confusing to anyone who hadn’t seen the last season before reading, but as a companion piece to the entire show I found it extremely compelling.

One thing that I’m scratching my head over is that it seems to have some monumental continuity errors. Especially in the story of how Big Ed lost his true love Norma and ended up marrying crazy Nadine instead. Again, I’m no expert, but this seems wildly different then the story Big Ed told on the show back in the day.

On the other hand, the tale this time is being relayed by another character, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Frost wasn’t doing something tricky here that’s a commentary on how history changes depending on who’s telling it which would be a sly wink as to how much we can trust anything that’s in this book. Or maybe he just screwed up. It’s Twin Peaks so we’ll probably never know for sure, but that’s part of what makes it all so intriguing.

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