A Bookhouse Bulletin: Pages Between Two Worlds

There’s a brand-new book about Twin Peaks that captures some magical resonances between various sets of two worlds. Published as part of the TV Milestones Series at Wayne State University Press, Twin Peaks, by Julie Grossman and Will Scheibel, delivers a compact presentation of academically rigorous research and analysis written that is accessible and compelling for curious non-academic audiences. Whether you’re an aficionado of the series Twin Peaks or keen to explore milestone developments in television, this book will enchant and enlighten you.

Grossman and Scheibel make judicious use of ideas directly from David Lynch and Mark Frost to support their approach to the series. The pointed inclusion of both creators is a high merit of the book since a lot of writing within fan and academic communities tends to favor one creator or the other. Here both Frost and Lynch function as key evidence to support the book’s analysis of the series.

The authors note how Frost has alluded to Odysseus to frame The Return from 2017, a remark that connects with discussions of the recent third season and the particular flavor(s) of nostalgia it seems to leverage. Later in the book, they cite an interview where Frost explained The Return as a specific update to noir in the context of the 2008-9 economic crisis. The book draws on this idea within a sustained explanation of how all three seasons of Twin Peaks and the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me have fulfilled, innovated, and challenged the genre conventions and audience expectations of noir. Among the thought-provoking implications of Frost’s economic crisis noir framing is attention to the Rancho Rosa Estates as a genre setting.

While the Frost references offer concise political economic and traditional myth contexts to foster analysis of Twin Peaks, the remarks by David Lynch invoked in the book offer forceful if indirect insights. In a section of the book that reads Twin Peaks against the grain of melodrama, for example, the authors use an excerpt from an interview where Lynch says that faces crying on the screen do vital work in connecting the viewer through identification with the characters. Elsewhere, the authors select a great statement Lynch made during his interviews with Chris Rodley for the book Lynch on Lynch: “Twin Peaks is still there, it’s just that no one is pointing the camera at it now.” It’s thrilling to imagine Lynch imagining the decades of days in which life continued in the town of Twin Peaks, as if that world is a simulation that, once initiated, won’t ever really be terminated.

This notion of the fictional place and people of Twin Peaks persisting, though unrecorded, contributes to a chapter that focuses on the paratexts of the series. This is an especially intriguing chapter of the book as it considers the intertextual and transmedia storytelling elements of Twin Peaks. The authors render current academic conversations about how transmedia storytelling functions in franchise and legacy narratives–how paratexts and reboots activate desires to relive the experience of first encounters with the originals, in this case that experience of the Pilot episode in April 1990 and/or of the first two seasons of Twin Peaks in 1990-91. But these paratexts don’t only ping nostalgic longings. They’re also opportunities to make fresh discoveries. From a fan point of view, these discoveries often assemble a more complete and cohesive theory of what has happened, as well as how and why. From an academic point of view, these discoveries can underscore or undermine existing analyses of the narrative, or the paratexts may pave the way for original analytical approaches. Put simply, Grossman and Scheibel, do important work triangulating the various Twin Peaks books and prequel film as works of marketing, merchandising, and world building that are consumed for nostalgic return, detective pleasures, and cultural critique.

As a final reason to pick up a copy of this book, the opening chapters document and provide key glimpses of the archive of popular press coverage of the series in the buildup to its television premiere and through its successes, challenges, and cancellation, circa 1989-1991.

Fans and/or academics familiar with the series and its history will find the account of events that birthed and terminated the first two seasons familiar. Despite the absence of surprises and discoveries, these first chapters point very precisely to the ways the series was framed. These frames include an auteur approach to Lynch–with a useful recollection of Hitchcock’s use of television to reinforce himself and his image as an auteur icon, the related contexts of daytime and prime time soap operas, and the convergences of perceived high and low cultural productions. By taking a real look at how Twin Peaks circulated through soap opera magazines and Soap Opera Digest Awards, for example, the book gives a robust account of the series as a milestone, situated in the media landscape of its origins.

Written by Andy Hageman

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