Ok, so it’s been a few days since I finished Mark Frost’s The Secret History Of Twin Peaks and I’ve been able to digest it.
The first thing to say is how beautiful the book is, from the embossed images on the cover and spine, to the multifaceted style of the interior, the faux inserts, newspaper clippings etc.; a truly lovely object to behold.
However, I wish I could say that I found the contents of the book itself half as appealing.
* H E R E T H E R E B E S P O I L E R S *
My very first reaction (predisposed as I am to knee-jerk overreaction and hyperbole) was to say that it seemed, bizarrely, that Mark Frost didn’t understand Twin Peaks at all. My second, more measured, reaction was to realise that there might well be at least TWO Twin Peakses, and that this book didn’t really come within a country mile of MY Twin Peaks.
But to explain. ‘My’ Twin Peaks is all about the strange, dreamlike oddness that is revealed to exist below the surface of small town life, and which is revealed via Laura Palmer’s murder; the mystery of the red room, of BOB, of The Man From Another Place, a mystery that is at once rich, dark and beautiful, with its own skewed logic, and yet unexplainable (and in no need of specific or concrete context or explanation). Frost’s Twin Peaks, based on this book, seems to be all about flying bloody saucers.
For me, and barring mention of the eternally regrettable Evelyn Marsh affair (over which a veil should be forever drawn), the whole Major Briggs / flying saucer / Project Blue Book storyline was little more than misdirection (and should have remained so) being one of the least engaging red herrings of the series. For me aliens and alien abductions have no more place in Twin Peaks than actors looking anything other than shame-faced, embarrassed and bored had any place in the recent stomach-churningly awful series of The X-Files.
And it is The X-Files that this book has most in common with. We’re ‘treated’ in the book to flying saucers, lights in the sky, government cover ups, conspiracy theories, area 51, Roswell and so on and so on.
Guest appearances include President Nixon, Aleister Crowley, L. Ron Hubbard, Jackie Gleason, the list goes on, linking Twin Peaks to so many major world figures and events that it begins to read like outtakes from the execrable Forrest Gump.
The book is framed as a discovered dossier written by the mysterious ‘archivist’ and with investigatory notes by an FBI agent whose full name is redacted but whose initials are T.P. (yes, really). The agent’s name is revealed at the end of the book, seemingly for no other reason (had the redacter run out of marker pen?) than for the surprise “It’s a woman?! Wow!” and then, when the archivist’s identity is revealed as (drum roll) Major Briggs, all I was left with was the distinct feeling that the archivist’s ‘voice’ as narrator of the book had been all wrong for Briggs.
And if we’re talking ‘voices’ the worst culprit here is the section written by Deputy Hawk, whose dignified stoicism and folkish wisdom (lazy racial stereotype though it arguably may have been) are replaced, quite bizarrely, by a kind of verbose, ‘good ol’ boy’ boorishness.
When we’re not chasing flying saucers, the book does indeed dip into the town itself and gives backstories to a number of its inhabitants. The least convincing of these is Josie’s, which paints her as a fiendish, calculating criminal mastermind who was really only playing at being meek; a heavy-handed, retrofitted invention that makes little sense looking back.
There are the much mentioned inconsistencies in the book but my chief problems with The Secret History Of Twin Peaks are its overall tone, which seems utterly at odds with the series, and its relentless obsession with those flying ruddy saucers. Flying saucers are sci-fi, and while I very much like some sci-fi, and indeed even some sci-fi that includes flying saucers, it isn’t Twin Peaks, it just isn’t. The series, for me, is all about the intangible, and like much of Lynch’s work it has its own mythos and idiosyncrasies, its own feel, a feel that can only be diluted by the seemingly random addition of conspiracy theory and hackneyed old UFO tropes.
However, as I said at the start, there are clearly at least TWO Twin Peakses. From what I’ve read, reaction to the book has been almost universally positive, so many out there would disagree; I just wish I felt the same.
There are schools of thought that try to sway Twin Peaks fans into being either in the Frost camp or the Lynch camp, and I’ve always tried to avoid choosing sides, the series was after all, a collaboration; but if this book is an example of Frost’s concrete meat-and-potatoes approach, then I choose Lynch’s intuitive dreams and mystery all day long.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Marvin The Martian doesn’t get a cameo in season 3…