Here at 25YL, we love The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Jennifer Lynch gives us a masterful glimpse into Laura’s inner life that enriches any viewing of the series and the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Over the past few weeks, we have done a deep dive into the Secret Diary as part of our month-long celebration of all things Twin Peaks. For our final article in the Diary series, Aaron Cohen has collected submissions from Peaks fans around the world, who responded with their feelings about The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Thank you for joining us in our celebration of the Diary and 25YL’s Twin Peaks Month!
The prompt I provided was simple: provide your thoughts on The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, including your first impressions and what it might mean to you today. The responses I received are heartfelt, honest, and genuinely moving. My intent is to quickly step aside so you can read these submissions but I do want to leave with a brief note.
Each of the individuals who provided responses to me are truly beautiful souls. They come from different walks of life, living in Australia, Italy, France, Norway, and the USA. They first discovered The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer at its initial publication in 1990 all the way up to 2017. They each discovered Twin Peaks and the Diary at different points in their lives, and have been inspired, both creatively and otherwise, by these works. Twin Peaks has always been a global phenomenon and remains so to this day.
I know I’m a better person from knowing the contributors, and I’m honored to be able to call several of them dear friends. I have included their Instagram and Twitter accounts (with permission) so that readers of this article can also see the beauty these individuals share with the world, whether it’s through their photography, their artwork, their films, or their words. I strongly encourage you to follow each of them. They fit the definition of wonderful and strange in the best possible way.
Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this article. Thank you to Jennifer Lynch for sharing your gift with the world, and truly channeling the voice of Laura Palmer. And lastly thank you to you, the reader, for taking the time to read these contributions. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
– Aaron Cohen
Discovered The Secret Diary in 2017
I can distinctly remember the first time I read The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Coming into Twin Peaks quite recently, I found it at my local bookstore amongst the hype of its return. I had a colorful conversation with the shop lady as I purchased both that, and The Secret History of Twin Peaks, and she told me she too was an avid fan. We bonded over some of the crazy things we had done because of the show, and she told me how she had made her own Twin Peaks clothes and shoes, which I loved her for. Living in Australia, we don’t get much merchandise, and I remember when purchasing the books, the store stocked only one of each.
Finding Laura’s diary felt so magical to me. I had been obsessively flicking through the show weeks beforehand, watching and analyzing all of Laura’s scenes, closing my eyes and listening to the music, and then thinking about what it all meant after I was done. I get like this every time I love something as deeply as I do Twin Peaks; I need to think about it, analyze it, read as much as I can about it…and once I think I have done all I can, I try to find more.
Laura was always the most fascinating, important character to me, despite the fact she was dead before the show had even begun. When I started her diary, I carried it with me everywhere. Even if I didn’t get time to look through it that day, it was always at the bottom of my bag as I went shopping, took a train trip, or had an appointment.
I knew the first time I watched Twin Peaks, even before the more crucial details of her murder and life were revealed, that I connected with Laura’s character more deeply than I had with any other character from any other show. Particular passages from her diary literally made me feel as though my heart had stopped; it was as if somebody had looked into my mind, picked out some of the darkest pieces, and put them down on paper under the name of somebody else. Pieces of it were very uncomfortable for me, as I assume they would be for anybody else. The diary fleshes out all the darkest aspects of Laura’s life, and lays bare the deepest, cruelest thoughts and feelings that she has. These were the bits that struck me the most. I was torn between being relieved that I could read something that I related to so closely, and being horrified that I had shared some of the more sinister aspects of Laura’s personality.
Of all the books that I have read during my life, I have very few that I hold extremely close to my heart, but The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is one of them. I feel so lucky that I was able to discover Twin Peaks so early on in my life, and luckier still that I was able to delve deeper into Laura’s journey through her diary.
Discovered The Secret Diary in 1990
As I thought back to what The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer meant to me when I first read it in 1990, a myriad of memory-filled emotion flooded my being. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized my feelings haven’t really changed at all. But the questions I find myself asking have become more intricate and layered and have grown greatly in scope since I read this for the first time at 14 years old.
There are no definitive answers for me now, nor were there then. There never will be. The mystery grew and changed, just as I did, but it still remains unsolved. And herein lies the true beauty, for me, of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and of Twin Peaks itself.
Discovered The Secret Diary in 2000
I remember seeing The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer at home for years before I decided to pick it up. I already knew the show at the time (it was around 2000, I think), I knew what we were talking about. I have read it many, many times over the years, and every time I read it I am shocked at the ability that Jennifer Lynch had in interpreting the contradictions of a girl victim of traumas and abuses of all kinds. The honesty of certain thoughts, the stylistic choices of the entire book made and still make Laura Palmer a real character. It’s like it’s written from the inside.
And, if you forget about the terrible fate of Laura for a moment, you can see that Jennifer deals with issues that are close to many young girls. Loneliness, the difficult relationship with one’s body and others; sex, drugs, that feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time…I found a lot of comfort in Laura’s fears, when I was scared myself…It’s an authentic opera. A gem for any Twin Peaks fan and a tribute to that little girl who maybe escaped that hell and now lives just down the lane.
Discovered The Secret Diary in 1990
Instagram: @thor.aamli76 and @systog_film
Back in 1990 I was going to a town called Kristiansand in Norway to buy Christmas gifts. I didn’t know that there was a Twin Peaks book out and seeing The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer standing in the bookshelf at the book store made me so scared and so happy. I remember almost walking slowly towards it like it was something that might be scared away. I had to take a small peek in it when I lifted it up. I remember two things so clear: ”BOB” and ”Page ripped out.” There and then I just knew that this was going to be the story I hoped it would be: honest, sad, scary, beautiful and strange. I read it all immediately after I got home the same night. The words were so real and dreamy at the same time. Like a beautiful dream and a scary nightmare at the same time. Reading about Laura’s life from the age of 12 was amazing and disturbing. Finally, we got to learn more about her life and see how things were from her perspective. I loved that so much! Reading about Donna’s friendship, her relationship with her father, and how the drugs came into her life were really fascinating, and also heartbreaking.
I feel that Jennifer Lynch has captured Laura’s life beautifully. By beautifully I mean the way I imagined it could have been. I mean this is the real diary of Laura Palmer for my part. I don’t feel like this is something that has been written by someone else than Laura herself. I was 14 years old when I read it the first time and I remember being really scared at times when I read it. Each time BOB “entered” the diary I had to look over my shoulder, literally.
I have the audiobook now with Sheryl Lee reading it. That adds an extra magical dimension to it. The audiobook is beautiful and Sheryl Lee tells Laura’s story just perfect. Before this audiobook came out I loved reading it with Twin Peaks music in the background. This last year I have gotten more and more inspired by the diary. I have used a few things in my short films The Summer House at Pearl Lakes that were taken from the diary. There might be more ideas coming from the book in my next short film. One day in the nearest future I would like to enter a bookstore and take a look up at the shelf. There I see Jennifer Lynch’s new book: The Secret Diary of Carrie Page.
Discovered The Secret Diary in 2014
When I watched Fire Walk With Me for the first time four years ago, I was stunned by Sheryl Lee’s performance and by the writing and the developing of the character of Laura Palmer. I rarely felt such numerous emotions watching the final scene of a movie. A few days later, I decided to write a story in honor of the character of Laura in order to give her, once again, a moment of freedom. Developing my story, I dug through the depths of the Internet to find as much miscellaneous information as possible to help me fill in as many details as I could while trying to encompass the various intricacies that surround Laura’s life. That’s how I came upon The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch.
I immediately rushed to Amazon to get my hands on the book and went through it in two days. Reading it at the time felt like living the story with Laura, watching her going through hell while being unable to do anything to help her. I remember feeling often disturbed by the authenticity of the writing; the way Jennifer Lynch made her readers dive into Laura’s deepest thoughts felt very intimate and almost too real. As an actor writing a story about Laura, the diary gave me everything I could have wished for. I navigated through the internal monologue of Laura along the pages with, displayed to my eyes, her deepest secrets, fears, dreams and hopes, creating a multi-dimensional character with layers of complexity. We follow her as an individual wandering through her own path discovering who she is in an existence filled with violence and abuse.
What is powerful about Laura’s story, to me, is that despite all the terrible choices she pursues, the reader is perpetually compelled to feel empathetic to her. We just witness the pure unfairness of this heartbreaking story and feel sorry for this young girl whose life has been stolen. The universality of her story makes The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer a memoir that could have been written by any girl who had been through the same experience, acting as a record for all of them. To me, BOB embodied the metaphor of Leland’s abusive power over his daughter, and Laura created this monster to allow her to escape from this disturbing truth.
In my film I really wanted to explore the trauma of Laura and how it can affect anyone; it’s the fight of a girl who just wants to be free both in her mind and body. During the production of my film, playing the role of Laura, I always had the diary on hand, sometimes just to look for an insight, and other times to completely immerse myself in her psyche as the book allowed me to dive deeper into her character. What I really loved about the diary was those few moments of hope where Laura clung to anything she could just to stay alive. She wrote her deepest personal thoughts and turned them into poetry. The diary is for me a reflection of the mind of Laura: who she truly is. It depicts abuse, violence, and how someone can cope with all of this. Her story is a testimony for all the ones who have been through the same suffering.
Discovered The Secret Diary in 1990
“He is unselfish, kind, and always shows me a gentle smile of inspiration or forgiveness or anything that somehow always perfectly fills the gap I feel inside me.”
– Laura Palmer describing her affection for Dr. Hayward
When I was a teenager, I read The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer in awe. This was what it was like to be a teenager: impacted by forces you can’t control, including the unbounded capacity to make decisions that can feel out of your control. Developmentally, teenagers have an “imaginary audience.” They feel like all eyes are on them. How lonely and frustrating, then, to be a teenager spiraling out of control and impacted by evil, with everybody watching, and nobody willing to step in and help! As a teenager, there’s no boundary between what goes on in your head and what’s happening externally. When the outside world treats you like shit, you think it’s your fault. When you act impulsively or in a way you were taught not to, any abuser can make you feel like the abuse is your fault. Maybe “feel like” isn’t the best term. “Know with absolute certainty” is more like it. If you are a teenager acting out with drugs and sex and any number of so-called vices, you KNOW that the abuse is your fault, and it makes perfect sense to you.
Of course that isn’t true in Laura’s case, or any other teenager in trouble. When I read The Secret Diary, I felt her disappointment and confusion when she’d think and do good things, yet bad things would happen to her. She describes people around her with empathy, and with a yearning for someone, anyone to understand. Well, yearning, and fear that once they find out “all about her,” they’ll abandon her because of her badness. In short, the yearning and fear of most young people.
As an adult with a failed marriage and two dead children (and a LOT of therapy, I’m mostly okay now), I re-read The Secret Diary with incredible frustration. We adults fail kids like Laura constantly. It doesn’t take more than a smile or a word or a hug to reward behaviors that are good, in essence reassuring them that we see the value in them despite anything negative they may be thinking or feeling. I decided to open my home to foster children, teens in particular. Since that decision 12 years ago, I’ve had nearly 40 children come into my life. When I see a seed of goodness in them—and there are ALWAYS seeds of goodness, even in the hardest cases—I water those seeds. I reinforce the goodness that they want to show, and keep throwing love at them even when they fall. It isn’t a perfect system, and some kids continue to reject that kind of love and reassurance well into adulthood. But I can say with a clear conscience that I tried with each and every one of them.
Maybe we can’t save the world, but we can be that Doc Hayward for one person. Then another. There’s a chance they’ll remember that encouragement, and maybe pass it along to someone else who needs it, and they’ll pass it along, then they’ll pass it…you get the picture.
And there are ripples in that still water Jerry Garcia sang about. From great loss, great love, etc., all of that. And gratitude. Mostly I’m just so grateful for Jen Lynch, David Lynch, and Sheryl Lee for their insights into the character of Laura Palmer. I know I’m not the only one who has chosen this path for these reasons, and I know I’m not the last to feel this exponentially growing wave of goodness. That’s what The Secret Diary means to me now: hope.