Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks – David Lavery

Full of Secrets contains virtually everything you need to know about Twin Peaks. This fascinating collection of essays considers David Lynch’s politics, the enigmatic musical score, and the show’s cult status, treatment of violence, obsession with doubling, and silencing of women. Also included are a director and writer list, a cast list, a Twin Peaks calendar, a complete scene breakdown for the entire series, and a comprehensive bibliography.

What a comeback event the first few episodes of the third season  of Twin Peaks was. No doubt one of the seminal shows of television history, this book analyses the first two seasons and prequel film Fire Walk With me but rest assured as ever, there are no spoilers contained anywhere within this review.

The twelve detailed analyses contained in this collection are part of the fascinating world of deconstruction that never ceases to revolve around this enigmatic show.  It is a shame, then, that it is such a challenge to tease out the interesting bits from a lot of overblown posturing.

Any attempt to intellectualise Twin Peaks (as written by these authors all with a Ph.d) will predictably straddle the fine line between pretentious and sometimes insightful.  There is a lot called on here to illustrate points from art and literature all the way through to Semiotics.  It underlines the point that when something is a mystery, more obscure references must be pulled in to explain points and thus widen and convolute the original enigma.

The selection of subjects is of varying interest, the internet chatrooms – in their infancy in the early 90’s – is interesting, as the state of US TV and how programmes are marketed to different demographics. Any mention of Umberto Eco is always likely to make my day as well.

The nadir of the book comes in the form of one of the three feminist examinations.  It started out as a perfectly fine essay and then became all about phallic imagery that seemingly appeared everywhere in the show, apparently.  It wasn’t so much a leap to shoehorn that ideas into the essay as some sort of warp jump across galaxies.

If you look deeply enough into anything you can find something to link to almost anything else, it’s a fun game but need not be written about in such high brow manner, unless you consider that the essays are a parody of themselves of course which would fit in with the feel of the original to series. This selection is varied but all too often become bogged down by their own ridiculousness, it makes the reader wonder how much was intended by the writers and how much is graspingly imagined by the essayists, nevertheless this book has most likely become a peripheral part of the phenomenon for some fans now.

That a TV show can get this level of critique is impressive and speaks volumes for its impact on the landscape of TV and popular culture, the book though is less impressive than this reader hoped. It’s not by any means required reading if you are a fan of the show but it did pass some time whilst waiting for the new episodes.

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31 Replies to “Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks – David Lavery”

    1. Sadly it doesn’t decode much in a meaningful sense of the word, (if Twin Peaks really can be decoded in any great depth of course) it throws ideas out, a lot of ideas, some stick and some are at best tenuous.

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  1. This does look good. I rewatched Twin Peaks a few years back with my son (David Lynch is on my improvised syllabus of films/tv/culture that I feel it my duty to introduce my children to). It still felt so fresh, and yet it was clear how influential it has been since.

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    1. Yes! The remastered editions are great and all that but I love the now grainy quality of the original cut as well, it’s all very timeless. The new series has a different feel and it will be interesting to see how this holds up to not only the original but against the test of time. We ha doughnuts, coffee and cherry pie to watch the new episodes.

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  2. I loathe this kind of academic text but I admire you for picking it up in the first place. Twin Peaks needs no interpretation as it works at the level of the subconscious. It triggers feelings and emotions way beyond the prosaic images of a fan humming silently at the top of a staircase in a suburban home.

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    1. My flatmate who previously read it told me not to expect too much but in the build up to the new series, it made sense. Interpreting or explaining a show like Twin Peaks would ruin it for the vast majority of its fans, I can’t look at a fan in the same way again now, its all so pleasantly haunting, then you think of what went on and it becomes ghoulish. It was and still is TV pushing itself beyond what people would ever expect.

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  3. I’ve never watched “Twin Peaks,” and couldn’t now if I wanted to, because I don’t have the tv/playing/correct streaming equipment for it. But I can tell you that particularly during the 80’s and 90’s, there was a regular rash, a real popularity, to take a popular art form and intellectualize it, deconstruct it, what have you, to obtain meaning from it. It’s part of a tendency originally deriving from analyzing cultural constructs in the 50’s from structuralism. I guess the reason it was so popular, underneath it all, is that academics and intellectuals are just like the rest of us, they have two or more sides, and one of those sides has some popular tastes: it allows them to be whole and one if they can reunite their discipline and their fun time. Don DeLillo’s book “White Noise” (which is a hoot and a holler even if only for the scene in which a father and son argue about how to prove whether or not it’s raining) has an academic “expert” in it who knows all about the populist (not quite the same thing as popular, of course) roots of Hitler’s Germany, but he doesn’t know German. This is a bit similar, in that he strikes one as a sort of Nazi manqué, whom U. S. culture mistakenly tolerates. Anyway, glad to see you back and on the interpretation trail. Sorry this book didn’t thrill you.

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    1. Twin Peaks offers mysteries and delights in making the obscure an art form, one wonders how deconstructed it would be were it not as popular as it has become. I have heard much of DeLillo but never read any of his work so White Noise may be the place to start. ALthough this book didn’t thrill me I am currently on the final book of ‘Autumn’ in A Dance so a review will be out soon hopefully.

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  4. I enjoyed the series…. at first, a long first. Then I just lost interest. Poof! Kind of odd to say that I still really like the show, but have lost interest.

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    1. Well this would be an opportune moment to rewatch it again, it is still marvellous and offbeat and the new series is much darker and filmic. (still) Highly recommended!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Funny, this sounds like a grad student essay collection, that seeks to explain why a particular piece of art enthralls and mystifies. It’s a catch-22. Sometimes we want to have the reason why something moves us demystified, and sometimes the process of demystification is so convoluted (as you note) that you stop wanting to understand it and just feel it. When I was earning my MFA, I took quite a few literary theory classes. Sometimes the exploration killed the feeling of mystery, sometimes the enlightenment was thrilling. But you could never tell which one it was going to be until you got some distance into the process. My favorite project during that time was a seminar paper on Walter Benjamin’s “Arcades Project.” For my “paper,” I created my own tome that would resonate with the “Arcades Project,” taking in pieces that I’d read specifically for the class and everything else that happened during that semester, including scenes from dreams, quotes from newspaper articles, photos of things that happened, quotes from books I’d read for other classes, etc. My interpretation was more a work of art that tended to continue Benjamin’s dialectic rather than to seek to explain it. I was quite pleased. It sounds like this work comes up short in the illumination category.

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    1. That sounds fascinating, do you still have your work of art, I would love to see a blog post on it if you did. All the TV shows with mysteries benefit from fan guesses but ultimately become less impressive once revealed, such as Lost, The X-Files and to a lesser extent Doctor Who season arcs. Having said that I quite enjoy those people that won’t accept a reasonable theory to mysteries out there in the world and blame it all on aliens…those little grey/green guys need a good PR firm.

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      1. Yes, I have it, but it’s still in a box in storage. When we’re finished with the house remodel, I will have a grand opening. In the meantime, I’m buying new books and stacking them about the house.

        I believe that those who blame things on aliens are most likely aligned with the alt-right since they clearly enjoy alternative facts.

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        1. Books are the best thing to make a house feel like home and always keep visitors amused as well. i look forward to the grand opening! The alien conspiracy theorists have more plausible reasons for their theories than Trump has for his, one suspects.

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  6. Sounds like a great book… Not only because it has David Lynch’s work in sight but because of “the subjects of varying interest” you mention (the internet chatrooms the state of US TV and how programmes are marketed to different demographics,etc)… Excllent review and insights here dear Ste… Thanks for this post… Love & best wishes 😀

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    1. Thank you my friend, it was good to come back with something a bit different, even if it was topical. Whilst overall an average book, there were some really good parts to it that I am happy I read.

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    1. The new ones are very good, Lynch wanted an 18 hour art house film and that is what we have! The first four hours of which are as you would expect: Unexpected, comical, surreal, sinister, nostalgic but with a twist and mysterious.

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