The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost

Twin Peaks

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Fiction (“non-fiction”), supernatural, policier, mystery

Medium: Hardback

Synopsis: The FBI has found a small box, and inside contains a rather large file–The Secret History of Twin Peaks, written by somebody who calls themselves The Archivist.  The Archivist takes us from the beginning of the United States, to the adventures of Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea, to the founding of Twin Peaks, right up until the death of the town’s mayor, Dwayne Milford.  The Archivist analyzes government reports, interviews, Twin Peaks Post articles, and even notes written by the townsfolk of Twin Peaks themselves.  Tamara Preston is assigned to find out who the Archivist is by Gordon Cole, and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it.  After all, why write about the history of Twin Peaks, why is The Archivist mentioning UFOs and non-human beings on earth, who is The Archivist, and why are owls so important?

Review: While I try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, this one may prove to be a little difficult.  Because this book was released between the first two seasons and the upcoming third season of Twin Peaks, it’s clearly meant to bridge the 25-year gap.  I must confess that I only recently watched Twin Peaks, so revisiting the characters that we all know and love is likely to be more special to those who have known these characters for a longer time.  That being said, I still believe that this clue in the mystery that is Twin Peaks is endearing and clever.

Why is it endearing?  The closer we arrive to contemporary times in this novel, the more we learn about the characters.  While most of what we learn has been mentioned in passing in the series, this novel allows us to really understand the backstories of the adult characters, such as how the Packards came to be the biggest industry for Twin Peaks, who Josie really is (or isn’t), and why Norma and Ed never got married.  We even have the opportunity to read about some of the older characters in their primes, such as Dwayne Milford and The Log Lady, which provides us not only insight into the characters, but to the town of Twin Peaks itself.  No character in the show is without their purpose, and I’m sure you’ll find the same with respect to this book.  Additionally, this novel covers just a little past the season 2 finale–while we don’t know much about what happened after the bank explosion, or what happened to Dale Cooper after being possessed by Crazy Bob, the novel does give us just enough closure for us to hang on until the next season.

Why is it clever?  Oh, for many reasons.  Firstly, because of the “real” documents shown in the novel–there are journal entries from Lewis and Clark’s books, discussions between Doug Milford and President Nixon, and FBI reports on UFOs.  This in itself brings a sort of authenticity to the book.  We as an audience know that this book is fictional, but the use of real-looking documents make us wonder whether the documents themselves are fictional or not, and whether Mark Frost has just twisted the statements to become something meaningful for this fictional town.  Secondly,  because we want to know who The Archivist is.  We can all guess that The Archivist is somebody who we’ve seen on the show.  But who is it, exactly?  It’s this mystery that keeps us reading–it’s obvious that The Archivist is personally invested and knows the others that he mentions, but just about every character is mentioned, so it’s difficult to deduce who it is.

And thirdly–this warrants its own paragraph–the book in itself is something that I love seeing done with media.  I love media that isn’t one type or another: I love things that are television shows, radio shows, books, youtube videos, so on and so forth.  When stories can cross genres and medium, I smile at the ingenuity of it all.  I mean, yes, books can be turned into movies and vice versa, but this type of worldbuilding is unreal.  I’ve only really seen it once before with Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events: he has released the books, there’s been a movie, and a series, and all of his advertising is within the realm of the fictional world.  But the advertising and supplementary worldbuilding is what crosses genres and medium–it’s both fictional and nonfictional–think back to the first Netflix commercial for ASOUE, and how the day after Netflix released a statement that it wasn’t really them.  Think back to how the “author” of this article was actually a journalist for The Daily Punctilio (a fictional newspaper in our world, but a real one in the ASOUE world).  This worldbuilding crosses the line of fiction and nonfiction.  And even so, Lemony Snicket released The Unauthorized Biography, which is similar to The Secret History of Twin Peaks in that it presumes the fact that Lemony Snicket is a real man (that Twin Peaks is a real place), and that Lemony Snicket didn’t want his biography to come to light (that Twin Peaks has a history that has been documented by an unknown source), and that now we have the option to read about it, and delve ourselves even further into the fictional world the creators have created for us.  This is made possible because the story is able to work between many different mediums.  The fact that these different mediums work so well with stories like these doesn’t cheapen the whole experience: it enriches it.

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