Stack Overflow: ‘Twin Peaks’

Reading Time: 9 minutes
Stack Overflow: Twin Peaks
Stack Overflow: Twin Peaks

In preparation for the return of Twin Peaks on May 21st, 2017, I have spent the last few months reading everything I can about that place where the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air: its characters, fandom, cultural impact, and much, much more. In doing so I have come to discover a deeper appreciation not only for the show itself but for the messages it seeks to convey.

If you’re planning your own rewatch of Twin Peaks, then starting on April 20th will allow you to watch one episode per night until the new season begins, ending with the prequel movie Fire Walk with Me on May 20th. Until that time, I suggest picking up one of the many available Twin Peaks books: The owls may not be what they seem, but it’s what they remind us of that’s important.

The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Image: Macmillan
The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Image: Macmillan

Uncover the Secrets – The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
If you can only read one book about Twin Peaks, make it this one. The Secret History of Twin Peaks is written by the show’s co-creator Mark Frost and exists more as an object within the show’s universe than one “about” it.

The introduction to the book, in the form of an interoffice memorandum sent by FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole to an unknown special agent, explains that what we are holding is a dossier recovered by the FBI from a crime scene “still under active investigation” on July 17th, 2016. The dossier has been put together by an unknown source referred to as The Archivist, and the FBI needs to know who put it together. As Cole explains, “the content of the dossier appears to have some relationship to an investigation conducted in northwest Washington State many moons ago by Special Agent Dale Cooper”. The rest of the book is made up of a mixture of newspaper clippings, top secret documents and memos, transcribed telephone calls, and other documents – all stunningly designed to appear utterly realistic – that, when put together, recount a history not only of Twin Peaks and its residents but of much of American history too. Throughout the book, margin notes have been added by the unnamed agent assigned to read the dossier that add to our understanding of what we are reading and the feeling that we are reading alongside them.

The fictional elements of the book have been so expertly wound into the genuine history that the two become virtually indistinguishable to those lacking intimate knowledge of the real events. The events covered by the dossier begin back in the 1800s with the Lewis and Clark expeditions and continue to weave over 100 years worth of real events and people into a story so compelling that you soon lose track of reality. I found myself often referring to Wikipedia to establish whether what I had just read was truth or fiction, often finding that the parts I was most convinced were falsehoods, were actually the parts based on real events. We also learn something of the fates of several characters from the show and get a few hints about a few others, hints that have me chomping at the bit for the show to return in May.

This book, like the owls, was not what I expected it to be. It was so much better.

Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks, and Unwrapping the Plastic, Image: Intellect
Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks, and Unwrapping the Plastic, Image: Intellect

Explore More About Twin PeaksFan Phenomena Twin Peaks & Unwrapping The Plastic by Franck Boulègue & Marisa C. Hayes
The Fan Phenomena series from Intellect is a collection of introductory books with an academic leaning. Each one includes short essays from a number of authors on a range of subjects related to a specific fandom. The Twin Peaks edition, which I originally read and reviewed in 2013, looks at the outfits of Audrey Horne, the logic of dream symbolism throughout the show, and the topography of different locations – particularly interesting in a show that appears to exist in multiple dimensions and occasionally outside of time. This makes the book an excellent starting point for anyone interested in taking a first look at the show at a more in-depth level.

Unwrapping the Plastic, also from Intellect and written by one of the Fan Phenomena authors – Franck Boulègue – takes you from those first steps and deeper into the symbolism of Twin Peaks. This volume doesn’t flow as smoothly as the more introductory Fan Phenomena but digs deep into the spiritualism that surrounds every aspect of the show and prequel film. Dream logic plays a huge part here, as does the “ocean of consciousness”, an important element of show creator David Lynch’s personal belief in Transcendental Meditation. It is this belief that infuses every element of Twin Peaks, and developing an understanding of it provides as much insight into Twin Peaks as an understanding of Roman Catholicism or Judaism provides insights into the work of Scorsese and Allen respectively. Transcendental Meditation mixes with noir and the works of well-known philosophers and psychiatrists to create Lynch’s vision of small-town America, and this book explains how that mixture came to be.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Image: Gallery Books
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Image: Gallery Books

Learn More About Laura – The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch
Penned by Jennifer Lynch, the daughter of Twin Peaks creator and director David Lynch, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is exactly what the title says. Here we get to read the diary that Laura hid at Harold Smith’s house almost in its entirety, as we saw on the show, several key pages have been torn from it. The diary begins on Laura’s 12th birthday and continues until a few days prior to her death at the age of 16.

This is not an easy read. Anyone who has watched Twin Peaks will know the sordid history of Laura Palmer’s short life which included prostitution, drug addiction, abuse and more from the age of 12, if not before. All this is shared in disturbing detail, told in the first person using the voice of a scared young girl who sees the darkness closing in around her but feels powerless to prevent it. Add to this the regular visits from BOB, the entity who has haunted Laura since childhood, forcing her to accompany him into the woods at night while he performs unspeakable acts upon her, and you have a diary that is the stuff of nightmares – especially when it is read from the perspective of a parent. Laura’s diary adds depth to her character, but whether or not you feel strong enough to look into the darkness within its pages only you can answer. I can only assure you that you will not come away unscathed.

The Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Cooper, Image: Pocket
The Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Cooper, Image: Pocket

Dig Deeper into Dale – The Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Cooper by Scott Frost
Written by Scott Frost, brother of Twin Peaks co-creator Mark, The Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Cooper delves deep into the history of our favorite FBI agent. The book is currently out of production with second-hand copies reaching large values online, but several Peaks websites have uploaded text or PDF copies making the book easily accessible until such as time as it is (hopefully) reprinted.

The book begins on Christmas Day 1967 when a 13-year-old Dale received his very first tape recorder. We then follow Dale as he grows up, learning about his years in high school and college, through Quantico and into the FBI. This being Twin Peaks, there are many mysteries located in these pages, even as they provide deeper insight into Cooper’s relationships with other Peaks characters such as Gordon Cole, Denise Bryson, Diane, and Windom Earle. After high school, Dale vanishes for three years without making any tapes, returning a changed man. During this time he comes to a belief that evil exists as a distinct force – a belief that will be reinforced in future encounters. There are also several passages that appear to foreshadow future events.

This was one of my favorite Twin Peaks books because it perfectly captures the unique voice and spirit of Dale Cooper. Even as a young man prior to the experiences that will shape his future self, Dale is filled with a spirit older than his years, one that will lead him, almost inevitably it seems, to the Black Lodge.

33 1/3 Twin Peaks, Image: Bloomsbury
33 1/3 Twin Peaks, Image: Bloomsbury

Seek Out the Sounds – Angelo Badalamenti’s Soundtrack from ‘Twin Peaks’ by Clare Nina Norelli

Angelo Badalamenti’s Soundtrack from ‘Twin Peaks’ by Clare Nina Norelli is the latest title from the 33 ⅓ Series by Bloomsbury, “a series of short books about a wide variety of albums, by artists ranging from James Brown to the Beastie Boys”. Each book in the series examines a specific album, looking at its creators and cultural impact. The first half of the Twin Peaks soundtrack book tracks the life of composer Angelo Badalamenti, from his days as a high school music teacher in Brooklyn where he once composed an original musical based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, his time composing pop songs advertising jingles, and songs for musical theatre, and into film and TV composition. The latter half examines the Twin Peaks soundtrack in detail, looking at each song and how the different motifs and sequences can be found throughout the show, often linked to specific characters or themes, changing subtly so as to be used at different times without becoming repetitive.

I have no formal music training, I can’t even read music (much to the horror of my high school music teacher who apparently considered this akin to child abuse on my mother’s part) and so sentences such as, “the refrain progression begins instead on the G-sharp minor chord and then moves down to an F-sharp-7, then down again to E major, jumps up for a bar to C-sharp minor, and back down to finish on the F-sharp-7 chord,” may as well be written in another language. However, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book in any way as the majority was written in a style that required no music training. I also came away from the book with a list of new music to dig up and listen to, thank goodness for my Apple Music subscription.

If you want to develop a better understanding of how the musical soundscape of a TV show can influence our feelings toward it, this is the perfect book for you.

Damn Fine Cherry Pie, Image: Harper Design
Damn Fine Cherry Pie, Image: Harper Design

Plan Your Peaks Party – Damn Fine Cherry Pie by Lindsey Bowden
On a final, lighter note, I recommend Damn Fine Cherry Pie by Lindsey Bowden. Ostensibly a recipe book, this volume shows us how much we can learn about a culture and it’s people from the food they eat. The diet of Twin Peaks is one of comfort food, and the culture is focused on a deep appreciation for what you put in your body – even if those might not be the healthiest choices. One only needs to watch Dale Cooper enjoying his famous coffee (black as midnight on a moonless night) and cherry pie to witness a man who truly appreciates food. Indeed, food is practically a character in its own right on Twin Peaks.

As well as recipes for a variety of pies, donuts, burgers, pancakes, and other foods that invoke not only a sense of homeliness but an extra few inches to your waistline, there are sections that will help you throw a Twin Peaks themed dinner party. The advice here focuses on what music to play from your jukebox, what to wear, and even how to tie a cherry stem with your tongue. If you’re looking to throw a premiere party for the first episode of season three, consider this book your Bible.


There are, of course, dozens of other books about Twin Peaks, to cover them all here would require a post so long that by the time you finished reading it, the new series would have already begun. A few titles that I feel deserve a mention here, however, include Andy Burnham’s Wrapped in Plastic – part of the Pop Classics series from ECW Press that I reviewed many moons ago, Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks by Brad Dukes which is filled with first-hand accounts from many of the show’s cast and crew, the Twin Peaks FAQ by David Bushman which serves as an encyclopaedia of the show, and “Diane…”: The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper, an audio only “book” consisting of Agent Cooper’s ubiquitous taped notes read by Kyle Maclachlan and now available on Audible.

With only a few weeks left before the return of Twin Peaks, whatever awaits us in that place both wonderful and strange, I feel certain that Margaret Lanterman’s log will have a lot to say about it.

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