Long before we reached the Golden Era of TV, we used books as our main resources for stories, vivid imagery, information and knowledge. Depending on the quality of the literature, we can find ourselves completely and utterly disconnected from the real world, as we navigate through the pages of a fictional or existing one still unknown to us, and all that after having read just one chapter. While this same state of relaxation or suspense can be achieved with our favourite television series of the moment – or, from the past, for that matter – there is something to be said about the tangibility of the stories we devour in book form. Every aspect of our most prized books is seductive in its own special way. From the wear and tear on your paperbacks and hardcovers highlighting the intensity of your relationship to the book, to your smudged fingerprints caressing yellowing pages like lipstick-kisses, to that intoxicating smell of history, creative labour and endless possibilities – nothing quite compares to the feeling these guardians of stories evoke in us.
As the co-creator of one of the most important cult series in TV history, Twin Peaks, it was only a matter of time before Mark Frost would create a book that is as puzzling, engaging, extremely well crafted and visually spellbinding as the show itself. The Secret History of Twin Peaks, which was released just half a year prior to The Return premiering on Showtime, is content and book design at its geekiest: it is a wet dream for Peaksies and anyone who spent their childhood exploring the woods and neighbouring streets in search of the next big story to crack wide open detective-style. I like to picture people who are entirely unfamiliar with the Twin Peaks phenomenon pick up this gem of a book at their local library or thrift shop and getting the same kicks out if it as Agent Cooper’s devout followers. I can detect a hint of confusion on their imaginary faces, but it remains overshadowed by the excited gleam in their eyes suggesting they are as fascinated by the town’s secrets and history, as Lynch is with the surreal. Admittedly, this all comes down to an exciting epistolary design sprinkled with so many mixed media elements, it is simply impossible to regard this book as anything other than a treasure to be cherished on the most prominent bookshelf in the room.
With The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Frost was looking to do for the town and its people what Jennifer Lynch did for Laura Palmer back in the nineties by ways of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer: to offer the fans who have kept the show alive for so many years, "a way to deepen and expand the universe the story takes place in". And that it does. Frost rightly described it as a “homecoming” for fans and a thorough introduction for newcomers to the show. This is achieved by a tone similar to the show; a style of long-format storytelling told through a very visual, expertly presented archive containing everything from newspaper clippings to strange diagrams, personal files on many of the town’s vital characters and the anonymous archivists’ own notes in the margins tying things together in some cases, enhancing the question marks on others. It caters to the predilections of Peaksies and the ever curious – the good and the bad, the supernatural and the quirkily absurd, and the history of it all – and has given them a way to safeguard these secrets and these relics with that distinct love we feel for the books that are of emotional value to us. It’s almost like a spirit we welcome to possess us and reside with us; it’s BOB and Laura and the Log Lady and the Glastonbury Grove.
This scrapbook style dossier is an absolute delight to look at, flip through and puzzle over. In a green as dark as the woods’ canopy, the hardcover is subtle in its design and powerful in its branding: an owl sits before the famous Twin Peaks symbol, the title of the book neatly arranged to fit a half-sized dust jacket design with a yellowing, black and white image of the waterfall at the Great Northern. The spine, etched with triangular shapes symbolic of the town’s mysteries, is the kind you want poking out of your bookshelf. It’s stylish, with an antique touch reflecting the ambiguity of time in this town we’ve grown so fond of. In fact, it looks like exactly the kind of book you’d find at the town’s secret Bookhouse.
The book opens to an interoffice memorandum sent to an anonymous agent by audience-favourite, Gordon Cole (portrayed by David Lynch himself). In this official document, he instructs this agent to provide a “comprehensive analysis” of a dossier that was found in a custom-made carbon steel lockbox that seems to connect to an investigation into the disappearance of Special Agent Dale Cooper in Washington DC some twenty-five years ago. The person who put the dossier together only refers to themselves as “The Archivist” and it is the agents’ job to find out who he or she is – and the reader gets to join in on the detective game. Anyone riveted by true-crime stories and documentaries about ancient discoveries of old manuscripts and cave paintings, anyone feeding that child-like curiosity and finding community in fellow explorers of the paranormal and mystical, will get a deep sense of satisfaction out of The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
Designed by Paul Kepple and Max Vandenberg, this book is nothing short of a pictorial, spiritual and addictive trip into the underbelly of Twin Peaks. Many pages are packed with typewritten information and bright red notes in the margin, but what could have easily felt overwhelming was a breeze to read through thanks to a fantastic layout – and that’s exactly what you need when you’re putting in long hours of detective work. That doesn’t mean that the dossier is just as easy to decipher. On the contrary. There is a lot of information here, and while our trusted anonymous agent and The Archiver have done a meticulous job at keeping it all in chronological order and pristine condition, the reader is challenged to dig deep and channel Special Agent Cooper. WWSACD? Surely, he would invite the reader to allow their mind-body coordination to operate on the “deepest level of intuition”…
So, if the readers’ intuition is to study the images of owls and BOB closely, perhaps with a pair of 3D glasses, that is totally encouraged. That’s how much thought has gone into this book. If you work through this dossier properly, you will see messages appear and disappear, but the only way to find them is by keeping an open mind. Nothing about this town is what it seems and not everything in this book is what it appears to be.
author Roxanne Sancto
Roxanne Sancto is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, often with a feminist twist. She adopts a new pet every time she goes out on a walk. www.roxannesancto.com