The sexual politics of Twin Peaks is complex, even contradictory, in large part because of David Lynch’s highly idiosyncratic style of writing and directing. Lacking the desire to be consistent, let alone expository, Lynch’s stories tend to operate on a level of subconscious association, his characters, settings, and scenes linked to highly charged symbols open to various interpretation. Nowhere has this dynamic caused more public contention than the role of women in his oeuvre. Adding insight and personal experience to the ongoing conversation, writer and conservationist Francis Chiem takes a closer look at female space in Twin Peaks in her essay “Evil that Lurks in those Woods”, up now at Two Serious Ladies.
I began working with Nathan Huffstutter while editing book reviews for The Nervous Breakdown. I always looked forward to his unique brand of intelligence and eloquence—his work was so fluent, in fact, that I’d worry his pieces would outshine their subject. His essay about Twin Peaks is proof that he needs not look far for a subject worthy of all the smarts and style of those reviews. A very personal and searching piece, he deftly weaves together the show’s themes with his own journey from adolescence into early adulthood. It’s a simply fantastic piece, and I encourage you to read it now at Los Angeles Review of Books.
Matt Briggs is one of those rare artists whose encyclopedic knowledge of the region in which they work is matched only by their enthusiasm for sharing it. In both his fiction and nonfiction, he never simplifies attitudes, ideas, or actions, but imagines and represents them in all of their glorious self-contradiction. He’s been an inspiring figure for me when thinking and writing about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and his participation in the Twin Peaks Project was a true honor. Partially for reasons I list above, it’s difficult to describe his unique and shifting essay, though it turns around issues of modernity, romanticism, art, and the uses and abuses of nature. But it’s not difficult to recommend it–up now in the new issue of MOSS, an exciting new journal of writing about the Northwest.
Some people encounter a piece of particularly influential art with the shock not just of revelation, but of recognition. Linnie Greene’s own summer of Twin Peaks seemed itself to mirror the action of the show: the descent into the unknown, the exploration of dangerous territory, the temptation to release control entirely. The ultimate tragedy. Linnie bravely recounts that time and those feelings for us with exceptional clarity, intelligence, and insight in the moving essay, Our Doubles, Ourselves, up today at Hobart. I encourage you to check it out.
What Twin Peaks fan hasn’t wondered about Cooper’s never-seen secretary Diane? Apparently (though I can’t find anyone actually saying this) some suspect that she doesn’t actually exist. But it’s more fun to assume she does, in part because it allows us to imagine her life. And that’s exactly what Rick Stoeckel does in the next update, entitled, appropriately, Diane–the first (and perhaps last) fiction contribution to the project. And I’m happy this story follows the compelling essay about the show’s peculiar expression of the uncanny valley, because this is something Stoeckel nails. Pour yourself a cup of strong black joe and head over to Publishing Genius to read Diane.
You can’t write about Twin Peaks without mentioning Lynch’s particular brand of strange, and most people are content with relying on the apt if tautological term “Lynchian.” While this is obviously true, it must be said that Lynch employs a range of weirdness–the effect of Twin Peaks is different than that of, say, Inland Empire. So “Lynchian” is in need of fine-tuning. In the newest TPP essay, author Eileen Maksym proposes a characterization of the weirdness particular to Twin Peaks I hadn’t thought of or read before, and by which I felt instantly convinced. Read her compelling argument here.
Joshua Lyon’s moving and insightful memoir Pill Head chronicles his struggle with addiction to prescription drugs, so I almost feel like his contribution to the Twin Peaks Project is something like a prelude. And with the understanding of where the path he explores in this piece finally took him, his description of early experiments with drugs to the ever-present soundtrack of Twin Peaks can only be read with a measure of sadness, despite how well he captures the excitement of those first explorations into the thrilling dangers of adulthood. I encourage you to check out Lyon’s personal essay over at The Nervous Breakdown.
If the influence of a show like Twin Peaks stays with you, declaring itself here and there in both subtle and obvious ways, are you simply a fan or is the show somehow actually haunting you? For author Peter Korchnak, the distinction becomes nearly moot as the influence follows him over decades and continents from Slovakia to Oregon as a foundational and symbolic element of his experience during the transformation and westernization of his home country. Having written about nostalgia for my own contribution to this project, I read Korchnak’s take with great interest, learning that what Lynch and Frost created easily spans culture, time, and place. I encourage you to read this author’s account at his blog American Robotnik, where he writes about “the wonders of life as a transplant.”
He called it. A lot of people I’ve spoken to in recent months have said how great it would be if the show returned, but mere weeks before the announcement Scott’s opinion was a bit more fervent: “It is time for a Twin Peaks reboot.” Indeed. Apparently the show’s creators agreed. Because this was written before the announcement, the author of this installment in the Twin Peaks Project plays a fun game of Who-Should-Direct? And indeed, who else but Lynch would be worthy? Also discussed in this strangely prescient piece are some plot and characterization ideas–and since the universe took his first point so seriously, I’ll be looking for any semblance of these suggestions in 2016. Take a moment to fantasize along with author and editor Scott Whitaker about what a new season of Twin Peaks
would will look like.
Two of the things I like most about the work of BC Edwards–both in his prose and poetry–are 1) his way of making imaginative narrative leaps (you never end up where you expect to), and 2) his humor (both funny ha ha and funny strange). Happily, both are in evidence in his essay, up today at Monkeybicycle, about how missing out onTwin Peaks became a kind of badge he now wears with pride. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
P.S. A few weeks ago we ran another piece written by an author who hadn’t seen Twin Peaks, and a reader contacted me on Twitter to say he’d prefer essays by people who had (the note was good-humored, to be fair). Normally I’d sympathize–participants in a project nominally about a subject should obviously be able to demonstrate some understanding, even expertise, about said subject, right? And yet, because Twin Peaks was/is such a cultural touchstone, I think it’s interesting to hear from those on the sidelines, from people who, instead of being shot directly in the heart by this show, were merely grazed.
Michael Seidlinger was one of the first people to volunteer for the Twin Peaks Project. And judging from the excerpt from his forthcoming novel, Miseryhead, it’s easy to understand his enthusiasm. Much like in Twin Peaks itself, there’s a striking strangeness at work in the excerpt–a normal-ish high school setting is home to a “mannequin” toted around by the narrator, a principle who wears a suit of armor. There’s a delicate balance to be struck with this kind of casual surrealism. You don’t want to draw too much attention to it within the narrative, so it works away at the reader while he/she tries to focus on the goings on and more familiar logic of the frame story. It’s a balance Seidlinger, like Lynch in Twin Peaks, pulls off perfectly. The book should be out sometime in 2015, and I look forward to it. For now, we’ll have to be content to read Seidlinger’s excerpt at Everyday Genuis.
After a series of somewhat somber/serious/personal contributions, our next official Twin Peaks Project submish comes by way of Andrew Bonazelli. Back in his days writing for Seattle Weekly, Andrew was notorious for his killer karaoke version of Avril Lavigne’s breakout hit Complicated (which, listening to it now, actually sounds like a country song). I like to think he brings that same spirit to his Lynch listicle on the always-readable Towering Achievements blog. Life’s like this, Andrew. Life’s like this.
For his contribution to the project, JR Hayes of the metal band Pig Destroyer speaks to the anxiety of writing about a show that’s attracted it’s own version of psychotic superfans–an anxiety I totally shared when composing my own essay. Of course, he then goes on to break down some of the show’s most interesting aspects with an attitude I can only describe as “metal.” Read his rad essay for yourself over at Decibel Magazine.
The first of a handful of poets who will be contributing work to the Twin Peaks Project, Olivia Aylmer is a recent Twin Peaks devotee, having only finished the series for the first time last month. Her poem is called Lament for Laura Palmer, and as I read it I realized how unexpected I found it to begin in elegy. By the end of the show we feel close to this mysterious character, Laura Palmer, despite having only known her, to quote Aylmer, in “dim sputtering bursts.” In truth, I think viewers rather quickly learn to take Laura for granted and forget about, save obliquely, the tragedy that sets into motion all the bizarre action in the show. I encourage you to remember Laura for yourself, and let this poem jog your memory.
From the first moment I decided to write an essay about Twin Peaks, I knew I wanted to start with Invitation to Love–the show-within-a-show that appears throughout the first season. I knew something within that device held a key to what Lynch was doing within the show as a whole. But I had no idea what that would be, or where it would take me. Turns out it brought me into an investigation of melodrama, sentimentality, and how “unearned” emotion gets earned. The good folks at The Believer were kind enough to run the results. I invite you to take a look here.
Twin Peaks first aired a couple months shy of my 15th birthday. I fell in love with it immediately, but it wasn’t until the full VHS box set release five years later that I watched the show in any organized way—largely because my life at 15 was too adolescently unpredictable to afford time for regularly scheduled programming.
Since 1995, I rewatched episodes of the show now and then, but it wasn’t until I moved to New York in 2005 that I began rewatching in earnest. Since then I haven’t stopped. It was only a matter of time before it worked its way into my own work, and with the publication of The Guild of St. Cooper in 2015, I feel like the show’s influence, and my fandom, will have come full circle.
Over the last year as I described The Guild, and the role Twin Peaks plays in it (see synopsis), I began to realize how many other writers were heavily influenced by the show. I began to look forward to sharing stories about discovering the show, to hearing about how other writers have been drawn back to it over the years. To exploring the hows and whys.
The Twin Peaks Project is the result of those conversations. It will be a series of essays, articles, and other works by writers and artists discussing their personal connection to the show. These pieces will be published and posted in participating online journals and blogs, and will be introduced and indexed here on this site.
The Twin Peaks Project will officially kick off later this summer with the publication of my own essay. Until then, I’m gathering works by writers, and speaking with publishers and editors interested in hosting a part of the series.
If you’re a writer, publisher, or blogger, I invite you to Join the Project.
Thanks for stopping by,