The new Twin Peaks started tonight on the ShowTime network. I'm not sure when I'll get to see it, as I don't get ShowTime. I guess it will be available online somehow sometime. It's a little late for me to be making this recommendation, but if you're a fan of the show, you should read this book as soon as you can, because I feel pretty sure it will shed some interesting light on the new series:
It's a sort of novel, written by Mark Frost, the co-creator of the series. It provides a great deal of fascinating background for the story by means of a wonderfully entertaining mixture of truth and fantasy. You learn a lot about people and events from the series, but you also get some history and context that are not even suggested by the series. For instance, the book opens with some odd incidents in the life, and odd circumstances about the death, of Meriwether Lewis, and works forward in time until shortly after the time of the original story, with a link to the present day. I'm expecting that link to be present in the new series; we'll see.
Frost obviously had a good time doing this, connecting the strange events in the town of Twin Peaks with all manner of conspiracy theories and popular lore about unexplained phenomena--UFOs, occultism. It made me think of some of the more interesting aspects of The X-Files, which in turn was (I hear) influenced by Twin Peaks. Frost weaves the secret history into real history very smoothly--the Lewis stories, for instance. Before I'd gotten very far into it I began checking references to any person or event presented as being known to real history, but unknown to me, and every one was genuine. (Shall I give you an instance? Would it be giving away too much? Well, here's one.)
And I had a very good time reading it. The premise is that in the present day a cache of documents relating to the town of Twin Peaks, its inhabitants, and certain events that occurred in the late 1980s, has been "recovered on 7-20-2016 from a crime scene." Deputy Director Gordon Cole has given it to an agent identified only by the initials T.P. for "comprehensive analysis, cataloging and cross-referencing.... We need to learn and verify the person or persons responsible for compiling this dossier...."
The book then consists of "documents" assembled by that unknown person, who refers to him or herself as "the archivist," typewritten annotations by him/her, and marginal notes from TP. It's a very elaborate physical production, and you can easily pretend that it's all genuine history, or at least I could. I noticed the other day that an audio version is available. Don't. That would at best be like reading a script instead of watching a film.
Obviously I don't want to give away anything important, but I can't resist a few remarks:
- I always did like Major Briggs a lot.
- Doug Milford is full of surprises.
- The Log Lady's attachment to her companion is eccentric but not crazy.
My wife gave me the book for Christmas last year. I started reading it, but when it reached the point in time where characters from the series began to appear, I realized that my recollection of the series was pretty spotty. So I stopped reading and over a period of weeks we watched the series again, and then the "prequel," and then I went back to the book.
I ended up being very impressed all over again with the series. Even the latter part of the second season, generally thought of as a mess and a letdown, seemed better than I remembered. I now feel fully prepared to watch the new series and hope it won't be a disappointment.
I deliberately refrained from reading any reviews or commentary on The Secret History because I didn't want to be prejudiced, or to learn anything that might have reduced the pleasure of reading it. And I still haven't read any. But I can imagine that some readers might be disappointed that it really does not answer a lot of questions that the series left open, questions about the specific events portrayed. I didn't feel that way, but others might. It's not about those events, and really only touches on them; it is, as the title says, about the history of the place, the forces at work there, and certain of the people; many characters from the series do not appear at all. And in what it does tell it not only leaves a lot of earlier questions unanswered, but raises new ones without answering them. It wouldn't really be true to Twin Peaks if it didn't.
And in one important respect the book is not Twin Peaks: it's not really very Lynchian, which is to say it's not seriously weird. It doesn't have the depth or mystery of the series, even though it's about mysterious things. But then the whole premise is that it's a strictly factual dossier.
In response to the related phenomena of Brexit and Donald Trump's rise, The New Criterion has been running a series of essays on populism (which naturally includes an effort to define the term, which is used pretty loosely). The seventh one, appearing in the March issue, is by Roger Scruton and is called "Representation and the People". The title refers to the tension between representative government and the direct, immediate wishes of the people. I won't try to summarize it, as it's long and fairly complex. But as part of his analysis Scruton illuminates an aspect of the Brexit and Trump movements which I think is very important. I'm going to excerpt it at length:
...democracies are held together by something stronger than politics. There is a “first person plural,” a pre-political loyalty, which causes neighbors who voted in opposing ways to treat each other as fellow citizens, for whom the government is not “mine” or “yours” but “ours,” whether or not we approve of it. Many are the flaws in this system of government, but one feature gives it an insuperable advantage over all others so far devised, which is that it makes those who exercise power accountable to those who did not vote for them. This kind of accountability is possible only if the electorate is bound together as a “we.” Only if this “we” is in place can the people trust the politicians to look after their interests....
But what happens when that trust disintegrates? In particular, what happens when the issues closest to people’s hearts are neither discussed nor mentioned by their representatives, and when these issues are precisely issues of identity—of “who we are” and “what unites us”? This, it seems to me, is where we have got to in Western democracies—in the United States just as much as in Europe. And recent events on both continents would be less surprising if the media and the politicians had woken up earlier to the fact that Western democracies—all of them without exception—are suffering from a crisis of identity. The “we” that is the foundation of trust and the sine qua non of representative government, has been jeopardized not only by the global economy and the rapid decline of indigenous ways of life, but also by the mass immigration of people with other languages, other customs, other religions, other ways of life, and other and competing loyalties. Worse than this is the fact that ordinary people have been forbidden to mention this, forbidden to complain about it publicly, forbidden even to begin the process of coming to terms with it by discussing what the costs and benefits might be.
Of course they have not been forbidden to discuss immigration in the way that Muslims are forbidden to discuss the origins of the Koran. Nor have they been forbidden by some express government decree. If they say the wrong things, they are not arrested and imprisoned—not yet, at least. They are silenced by labels—“racism,” “xenophobia,” “hate speech”—designed to associate them with the worst of recent crimes.... Hillary Clinton made the point in her election campaign, with her notorious reference to the “deplorables”—in other words, the people who bear the costs of liberal policies and respond to them with predictable resentments....
And when the pre-political “we” has, for whatever reason, been jeopardized, it is too late for the political process to deal with it. Emerging from behind the politics there then appears another and deeper question, the question who we are.
There's considerably more to the essay than this, and I think the whole thing is available online to non-subscribers, so I suggest you read it. But the deterioration of that 'pre-political "we"' is part of the reason that Trump was elected, and no doubt part of the reason for Brexit. And both those events have damaged it even further. Do committed Hillary voters feel that committed Trump voters have anything much in common with themselves? When left and right say "we" do they intend to include the other? Not that I can see. We're at a point in the U.S. where a presidential election is seen by one side as a sort of coup by the other, with dire consequences expected for the latter. I'm inclined to think the breach is irreparable, but maybe that's too pessimistic. Scruton himself proposes some attempts at repair.
We were discussing drinks last week. I seem to have invented one which I like very much. I more or less stumbled on it last summer one day when I wanted a martini. I was out of gin, and I don't consider vodka martinis to be martinis. So I messed around and ended up with vodka, vermouth (dry), lime slice (squeezed), and club soda. I make it roughly half-and-half alcohol and soda, but obviously that would be a matter of taste. It's really good if you like non-sweet drinks. There is no trace of sweetness in it at all.
As far as I've been able to determine by asking people and searching the web, it's not a known species. So I think I get to give it a name. I immediately thought of something related to moonlight. I wanted Half Moon, because that's the phase of the moon I enjoy most, when the moon is over the bay at the time I'm typically there. But Half Moon is already in use, as is Full Moon.
Bay Moon? Silvery Moon? Silver Moon? Feel free to vote and/or make suggestions. And fix yourself one, if you think it sounds good.