Book Review: The Secret History of Twin Peaks – Mark Frost

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Since Twin Peaks’ finale in June 1991, and sometimes even before that, certain layers had been added (or peeled back to reveal) new mysteries surrounding the world of Twin Peaks. I am talking of things like The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, written by David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer Lynch, or Fire Walk With Me – the initially panned film that explored the last week of Laura Palmer’s life, and even My Life, My Tapes, Agent Cooper’s backstory in the form of anecdotal voice recordings. None of these have actually managed to clear anything up, nor – I imagine  – was their intention.

The Secret History of Twin Peaks, however, manages somehow to do both. At the same time that a lot of things, and their origins, are becoming clear(er), things are happening parallel to these events and explanations that actively create new questions. We know, sort of, where the jade ring came from, but why was Nixon wearing it? And what does this have to do with Roswell? If you know anything about Twin Peaks I’m sure you wouldn’t head in to this book expecting everything laid out in front of you, dumbed down, ready to be ingested. Mark Frost himself noted that apparent discrepancies and inconsistencies between the new book and the show’s timeline, are in fact clues, or ‘mistakes’ made at the hands of he who compiled the dossier, and that there is indeed something to it.

Oh, yes the dossier. The FBI, and law enforcement in general, play an integral part in Twin Peaks so it should come as no surprise that Frost’s new novel is written in epistolary form, the narrator being FBI agent Tamara Pretson (who I’m willing to bet is a character in the upcoming series, perhaps Naomi Watts’ role?). Tamara Preston, or T.P, is given an assignment from the now Deputy Director Gordon Cole (my socks are on fire!) which is to comb through this dossier left at a crime scene and try and find out who wrote it and why. All we know to begin with is that the writer calls himself simply The Archivist. The main purpose of the dossier, it appears, is to keep record and find out a bit more about the town of Twin Peaks, it’s history and surroundings, with an emphasis on the strange things that happen around the town, and in the woods in particular.

Throughout we learn all kinds of new and interesting information, the full story of Ed, Norma, and Nadine, written by Deputy Hawk, the very important history of the Milford brothers, and even what became of Hank Jennings. It goes in to a lot more detail about the whole ‘mill’ fiasco, but serves only to muddy the story further as it appears to be one of the most glaringly obvious inconsistencies. Mark Frost is a smart dude, though, and I am confident in the fact that it was all intentional and will be (somewhat) explained as we are watching the new series. Perhaps someone, aside from the archivist, has maliciously messed with the dossier? When reading I got so swept away in the mythology that I had to remind myself that nothing is as it seems. In the book itself, a point Frost reiterated during a recent Reddit AMA, they make a clear distinction between the words “secret” and “mystery”, hinting at something deeper to do with the book’s title.

Even, to my surprise, we got a little bit of extra Peaks ‘content’ at the end, as the last entry was written in ‘real-time’ and actually takes place just after the events of the show. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but the end of the book is almost as spooky and pertinent as the end of the show. It could easily serve as part of the foundation for the new series.

The book itself is beautiful. Even the feel. The materials make you feel like you are reading something special, and real. The fact that a lot of the events reflected in the book actually took place in history helps with the immersion, and often I truly felt like an agent trying to figure out what the hell is going on. If you didn’t know any better it might serve as an astounding piece of historical journalism, and I’d believe it such are Frost’s skills. The way he weaves true history in to Peaks mythology is wizardry. The care and meticulousness put in to actually putting the book together is palpable, all the secret documents, journal entries, and newspaper clippings (to name a few) all feel authentic and real.

This the perfect addition to any Twin Peaks fan’s collection, and I would argue that it is an essential – ‘the owls are not what they seem’takes on a whole new meaning. Mark Frost has heavily hinted at another similar book to be released soon, rumoured to be detailing the lives of those living in the Twin Peaks universe from 1991- 2016. If it is anything like this book, and I imagine it will be, it’ll be a release-day grab for me definitely. I still don’t know who BOB is, or how Annie’s doing, but Frost’s talents for writing are such that I don’t even mind that this book created more questions than answers. It’s a hard thing to explain to someone who hasn’t read it, but it gives you a lot more food for thought on (some of) the more ambiguous parts of the show, while still keeping with the original mystery. I shall leave with some words of the great Agent Dale Cooper: “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”  – Make today’s gift the Secret History of Twin Peaks.

 

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Music Memories – Going to California Pt.3

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Well, we were no longer going to California, we were in California. Lying on the bed of our motel we worked out that by the time Robert Plant had finished his set we would have been awake for 40 hours. We can’t sleep now because we’re so tired that we’ll go in to a deeep sleep, perhaps sleeping through an alarm, or worse, waking up on time but being even more tired than you had been as a result of the sleep tease. So no sleep, but a shower helped a lot especially considering we had been welcomed with 34 degree heat that day, and were still dressed for New Zealand weather as our bags were, sigh, a day or two behind us.

Even though it was in a theater it was general admission, so once everyone found their seats you pretty much had to stay there or risk losing it. We had a good spot, and for Robert Plant I didn’t want to risk anything. Looking at the festival program it would be Jon Hopkins, St. Vincent, and then Robert Plant. Jon Hopkins seemed forgettable, and Abbey was intrigued by St. Vincent as she had played with ‘Nirvana’ at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jon Hopkins was anything but forgettable. His style of music was one that gets glossed over, or lost in the vast landscape of ‘dance’ music. People are too easily impressed by the pushing of buttons on a Macbook. Jon Hopkins surprised me pleasantly. He was totally watchable and interesting, seemingly improvising the songs as he goes adding new layers and effects that, while subtle, change the flow of the song completely. Then he did some brief interludes on the piano. The main thing I took away from witnessing this dude is that regardless of what he’s actually doing, the man is a virtuoso.

St. Vincent sucked. Sucked so bad. It’s not that she can’t sing or anything, her music is just bad. Almost seems contrary just to make a point of it. Can’t fathom that sort of thing, but the artsy L.A crowd seemed to eat it up. Her last words/noise? An elongated burp thing. On to Robert Plant, I think.

Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters. Yeah, his band definitely deserve a shout out. They were all world-class musicians more than deserving of a spot next to a legend. As soon as he took the stage, not to mention when he played the first Led Zep tune, our tiredness dissipated. The entire seated crowd leaped to their feet and didn’t sit down for the rest of the evening. Plant was personable, and made this already intimate venue feel even more so, something that can’t be said for a lot of other musicians – much less those worth hundreds of millions. Apparently Led Zeppelin were asked to play Desert Trip and declined, which Robert Plant noted from the stage “So we’re not in the desert tonight, for better or worse…”

His set list was fantastic mixing old blues standards and world music with classic Led Zeppelin songs. The new arrangements took nothing away from the old (standard) ones, and in fact breathed new life in to them. It’s not something you realise straight away, but it occurred to me that there’d be something off about him playing those songs exactly the way Jimmy Page arranged it. Not that he doesn’t deserve to, it’s just easy to see what Plant’s doing and why he’s doing it, and it works. I must admit once it was all over, standing up slapping my hands together in fury, and watching him leave the stage made me shed a tear or two, turning in to Abbey’s shoulder out of comfort and so none of the cool L.A peeps see me whimpering as they turned around to walk out the door. That was not the last time I cried at a gig in California.

 

Music Memories – Going to California Pt. 2

We had done it. Albeit at a rate we weren’t expecting but are considering tax for not being prepared. Demand was such that in the ensuing days ticket ‘worth’ on the secondary market would reach, I’m not kidding, over $100,000 before dropping sharply (to a mere $8,000 for a pit ticket, pfft). No complaints from us, we were going and it’s something you can’t really put a price on. Why the cliche? Because it’s honestly true.

In the months leading up to the event there were no other snags, none that eventuated anyway. I was in a constant state of fear that our tickets wouldn’t arrive in time or that they would have been tampered with or stolen, or something – mainly based on our postie’s claim that she had seen people from ‘the hospital’ up the road going through peoples’ mail and mailboxes. They arrived with ample time to spare in a beautiful box with a bunch of goodies inside, which is something I’d never known any festival to do. Some people online said it’s what to expect after paying such prices, which seems funny to me because in my mind I’ve only paid for the gig(s), and that anything else on top of those 6 artists performing (i.e an awesome box with presents) was a nice bonus.

Around the same time Abbey and I had been getting way in to David Lynch and Twin Peaks. No real reason for it, we had been meaning to check out Twin Peaks for a very long time and a bunch of Lynch films had been on our ‘list’ for ages. If you’ve seen Twin Peaks you probably know that nothing is a coincidence, and the owls are not what they seem, so imagine my pleasure when David Lynch him-fucking-self announces his own, new festival featuring headliner – wait-for-it-because-i’ve-been-beating-myself-up-about-not-seeing-him-when-he-came-to-NZ- Robert Plant. Robert Plant. Lead singer of my favourite band of all time, Led Zeppelin. The voice.  Things were indeed aligning as I scroll down the page and notice that the dates and location- Oct 8-9 Ace Theater, Los Angeles. We were landing in L.A on the 8th.

Tickets actually seemed harder to get for this than Desert Trip. The only reason we were able to score them, I believe, is because I managed to find a presale code on the internet somewhere, Reddit perhaps. The venue is a theater at a hotel, the capacity is only 1600. Lynch is one of those directors that has somewhat of a cult following, you either don’t really get him, or you LOVE him. More than 1600 people would have tried to get tickets regardless of who was playing, let alone Robert Plant, and indie darling St.Vincent. Robert Plant probably hasn’t played a venue this size since Led Zep’s early days. Based on social media, and again pricing on the secondary market, demand was huge and I honestly felt special just knowing that I’d be able to go. Not many cool things like this happen to me.

With everything go, having tapped my feet and paced the living room for months in anticipation for the day, it had arrived. There were no more snags. Couldn’t be. We had everything in order down to the smallest detail. Certain, rather thoughtless, friends had suggested strongly to us not to plan anything – after we’d already planned everything. Yeah, this isn’t some two-week jaunt across Bali, guys. I’m not going just to get wasted, I’m going for a pretty specific reason and if I end up sleeping in, or missing the bus, or anything, I’ve wasted so more money than your entire trip cost. Money that, for more private reasons reason than one, I won’t see again. If Desert Trip was in Spain, I’d be going to Spain instead, get it?. But alas, we get to the ticket check-in and the girl at Virgin Australia types in our flight details and with a smile informs us our flight has been cancelled because of “the hurricane.”

The hurricane in Florida? On the other side of the continent? Surely not. But, hey, you take their word for it right?  Immediately we go in to hyper drive thinking of other options, I head over to the Air NZ counter and ask when the next flight to L.A that we can get on will be. It’ll be $1000 bucks a person, and we’d be fighting tooth and nail to make it in time for Robert Plant. That was the main concern, we’d always make Desert Trip regardless, but Robert Plant, man. So Abbey is getting on it talking to a bunch of customer service lines, travel insurance etc., and we have to go back to the Virgin counter and ask the customer service team for printed proof the flight had been cancelled. The lady says, “Proof? The hurricane is all over the news.” The manager who happens to be in the vicinity overhears this and asks what flight we’re on. We tell him. It’s not cancelled, he informs us. Only some East Coast flights are. Pretty much what we had thought, too. We had no time to abduct and torture the woman who told us otherwise, so we thank them profusely and run to our gate where we arrive with plenty of time.