“The Secret History of Twin Peaks”, A Novel by Mark Frost.

TheSecretHistoryofTwinPeaks

The Secret History of Twin Peaks, written by Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost was released last Fall in anticipation for the show’s then upcoming triumphant return, which started this past May on cable network Showtime. The Secret History of Twin Peaks comes pre-packaged in the mythology of Twin Peaks. The forward, written by FBI director Gordon Cole, describes that this document was written by someone named “The Archivist”, who has taken it upon himself to compile a history of the mysterious events that have been happening in the town. Gordon has assigned the document to be investigated by a yet unnamed FBI agent.

Owing more than a little to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, this novel has multiple narrative threads and two main narrators. The Archivst’s narration and complied documents form the crux of the story, while the footnotes by the yet unnamed FBI agent help to clarify certain points, or point out things that the reader may have missed.

The first 100 or so pages are a bit hard to get into, as The Archivist traces a thread of history starting from the late 1800’s of strange activity and how it began (or at least it’s first documentation) in Twin Peaks. The focus of in this early part of the book constantly switches between pages from “historical documents” to articles from the Twin Peaks Gazette, and some narration from the Archivist. This was information overload, and I found it difficult to get into.

However, I pressed on and was rewarded. As the Archivist finally gets into the timeline of events from the original series, The Secret History of Twin Peaks finds it’s footing and becomes much more readable. The history of the town, starting with the formation of the mill and the feud between the Packer’s and Martell’s helped shed some clarity on plot points from the first season that I did not pick up on regarding the feud between Catherine and Josie.

It becomes clearer and clearer throughout the story that The Archivist is someone who has lived in Twin Peaks. The crux of the story eventually becomes, “who is this person, and what are they aiming for with this document”? The unnamed FBI agent is just as adamant in solving this mystery as the reader (hopefully) is.

This book is written for fans of the series, and there is no reason for anyone else to read it. While not essential for understanding the show, The Secret History of Twin Peaks is for the more rabid Peaks fan to learn more about these characters, the town, and the world they inhabit. Characters and plot lines are more fully developed in this tome. Some of the highlights include a written history of the courtship of Ed and Nadine penned by Deputy Hawk, and a dossier complied by unnamed Special Agent Dale Cooper. The Archivist surmises Cooper is the documents author as the writing contains several references to the exceptional coffee and pie at the Double R Diner.

Mark Frost uses the voice of The Archivist to wax poetic on the difference between secrets and mysteries, two of the biggest overreaching themes of the series. Twin Peaks started out as a melodrama focusing on a murdered cheerleader in a small town full of dark secrets, and has evolved almost into a cosmic horror story. The difference between the banality of people hiding things (secrets), and our inability to truly understand the forces of the world around us (mystery) are what makes Twin Peaks compelling.

Slate wrote an article lambasting Frost’s point. In this article, author Laura Miller calls this “unintentional irony”, when really it’s “the whole point of the damned show”.  I also disagree with Miller’s assertion that this book “squeezes all the mystery” out of Twin Peaks. While shedding light on some things, the biggest mysteries of the Twin Peaks mythology (the lodges, and the nature of it’s residents) are not explained, and TSHOTP pretty much states they never will be. Miller also assumes Frost would ruin Twin Peaks if left to his own devices based on this book. This is somewhat of a valid criticism. Lynch’s visual style helped make Peaks iconic; but so did the characters. Twin Peaks is a collaboration, and both help make the project what it is. Also, print media is different from a visual medium. Dancing midgets talking backwards translate poorly to the written page.

Lynch and Frost are not offering any fan service whatsoever with Twin Peaks: The Return. They are telling the story they want to tell, how they want to do it. This unconvential storytelling requires a large amount of patience, while also respecting the viewer/reader to be smart enough to pay attention and put it together for themselves. There is no hand holding. And this is why I am a fan.

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