With David Lynch’s Twin Peaks returning to TV this week, two Peaks freaks decided to revisit Jennifer Lynch’s surprisingly excellent 1990 tie-in book, The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, an underappreciated account of abuse and survival that’s aged better than most of the show’s second season. Over whiskey and beer in a wood-paneled bar, under the glow of a crimson lamp (of course), we discussed the enduring allure of Laura Palmer and her diary.
COURTNEY: I got the audiobook, read by Sheryl Lee [the actress who plays Laura]. It’s fucking awesome. But they don’t tell you that there are pages ripped out of Laura Palmer’s diary. So there are just weird interludes where a lot of time has gone by.
MEGAN: In the book it’s so creepy when you’re reading along: “Page ripped out [as found].”
COURTNEY: Dun dun dun! My copy that I read when the series originally came out... is all threadbare. I read it so many times in high school. I found it super titillating.
MEGAN: Yeah, there is a lot of sex stuff.
COURTNEY: So much sex stuff.
MEGAN: And starting really early. I was very scandalized.
COURTNEY: Yeah, she’s like 14, and fucking truckers and shit.
MEGAN: She’s abused by BOB starting very, very early.
COURTNEY: Very young, yeah.
MEGAN: And then I think she has her very first sexual experience that’s not—
MEGAN: But also it’s kind of statutory rape?
COURTNEY: Yeah! Relistening to that, I was like, this seemed really sweet when I read it as a high schooler. But now reading it as a grown-ass woman, she was 13, touching a bunch of 21-year-olds’ penises!
MEGAN: Yep. In a stream. After they got her drunk. I definitely spent a lot of time just like, “Oh, I’m so worried about you, Laura Palmer.”
COURTNEY: Yeah. I recommend the audiobook, because all the parts where BOB shows up in her diary, Lee reads as BOB and it’s fucking terrifying. It was probably nine in the morning, and I was getting chills waiting for the bus.
MEGAN: He’s using her as a conduit!
COURTNEY: It’s super creepy! And I didn’t really realize—the day her cat dies goes on forever. They steal all this coke, Bobby shoots the guy, she runs away, goes to the cabin for the first time, and has the big orgy. Spoilers!
MEGAN: Spoiler alert for a book that was published in 1990. And she’s so self-flagellating, which is hard to read because you know what’s happening and none of it is her fault. But she can’t tell anyone she’s being sexually abused by a spirit that sometimes inhabits her father’s body.
COURTNEY: And she still doesn’t know it’s [him]... although there are a couple hints. It’s weird that she never wants to hang out with her dad. But she craves hanging out with her mom. She’s like, “I just want to get high.”
MEGAN: That’s in the midst of her full-fledged coke addiction.
COURTNEY: Yes... which happened in one day. Literally one day. I was like, “that’s the fastest addiction I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”
MEGAN: Yeah, one day she’s like, “I’m sad, but basically functional and things are fine,” and the next day she’s like, “Well I am now a cocaine addict, and I guess I’m going to become a teenage prostitute as well.”
COURTNEY: Yeah. My favorite part of the whole cocaine addiction is just her casual dropping of cocaine jargon. All the snow everywhere. I think I’ll go do a blast. From my bullet! I was like, “You’re 14!”
MEGAN: There are also a bunch of locations that she talks about that aren’t on the show. Like, Lowtown.
COURTNEY: Yeah, Lowtown! I grew up in a small town. There’s no part of town that’s that bad. What’s your favorite part of the book?
MEGAN: I like the part with the Log Lady. Laura’s so sad and alienated, and that’s one of the only times that someone seems to show her any kindness, and she really appreciates it. And you get the sense the Log Lady knows what’s going on.
COURTNEY: She can’t spit it out directly. But she gets it.
MEGAN: What was your favorite part? How many times do you think you’ve read it?
COURTNEY: I think I’ve read it five times. There’s that whole section of initials of all the people she fucked. Some of them you can guess—like the first, maybe 10? I could pick out from the list: obviously BOB. Bobby Briggs, the second one. Leo Johnson—
MEGAN: Ugh, which is so gross.
COURTNEY: So gross! That ponytail is disgusting!
MEGAN: And it’s low, and looks like he doesn’t wash it that often.
COURTNEY: And crusty. He’s probably doing sexy acts with it that aren’t sexy. That’s so disgusting.
MEGAN: And he’s a domestic abuser.
COURTNEY: Yeah, a real bad one. Jacques Renault’s gotta be on there somewhere.
MEGAN: Now he’s really gross.
COURTNEY: Super gross. At least I can see where he might be a little sexier. I don’t know why I think that. Something about how he talks is a little sexier—although it’s disgusting.
MEGAN: I guess at least he’s an entrepreneur? He has a business.
COURTNEY: He’s got a bird. He’s got a pet. Someone loves him. He has unconditional love in his life.
MEGAN: I think Leo is definitely the worst. Well, BOB is the worst.
COURTNEY: Well, obviously BOB is the worst. He’s supernaturally the worst.
MEGAN: He’s in his own category, because he’s a demon.
COURTNEY: That was always my favorite part as a young reader... trying to figure out all the initials. What about Benjamin Horne?
MEGAN: I was so upset by the part where she’s like, “I found out my pony came from Benjamin Horne.” Like, you are 12, and a creepy old businessman is buying you ostentatious gifts?
COURTNEY: And that picture of Laura on the desk in his office....
MEGAN: That’s so creepy. The stuff where she’s like, “Audrey Horne hates me because her dad likes me so much.”
COURTNEY: Because her dad “sits me on his lap and sings to me?” Oh, honey. That’s bad. I know. I mean Laura’s right in the diary: The only good man in Twin Peaks is Dr. Hayward!
MEGAN: Dr. Hayward, yeah! I thought that part was really insightful, actually. Because she’s like, “he’s the only man who’s had a positive impact on me.”
COURTNEY: Yeah, “he’s the only man who doesn’t want to fuck me, or has some weird ulterior motive.” What do you think Donna thinks about Laura?
MEGAN: Well, I actually found myself identifying with Donna really strongly. When I was a teenager, I would have been horrified if one of my friends was like, “So I’ve become a prostitute to pay for my coke habit.”
COURTNEY: She’s just kind of beside herself. Like, “What are you doing, best friend? This is concerning.”
MEGAN: [The book] made me understand the way she’s depicted on the show.
COURTNEY: Like such a weird goody-goody?
MEGAN: I just thought she was so annoying.
COURTNEY: Yeah, she’s very snivelly and mousy. And the way she says “James,” over and over. “James!”
MEGAN: “James!” She doesn’t even say the hard J.
COURTNEY: Like she’s melting into a puddle of annoying. Okay, but what do you think happened to that jean jacket that Laura spent so much time embroidering and putting patches on? She was gonna give it to Donna. I wanna see that thing. It sounds amazing!
MEGAN: I also like that even though she’s descending into madness, has a serious drug habit, and is working at One-Eyed Jack’s, she makes time to decorate her friend’s jean jacket.
COURTNEY: That was really nice.
MEGAN: How does she do it all?
COURTNEY: I know! She’s like the girl who has everything. A demon!
MEGAN: And she sees Dr. Jacoby. So she has to make time for therapy.
COURTNEY: And Monday, Wednesday, Friday is Johnny Horne.
MEGAN: She runs Meals on Wheels.
COURTNEY: And tutors Josie. She literally doesn’t have time. We should map out her schedule. I think she would have, like, 30 hours in the day.
MEGAN: But somehow she’s getting her homework done.
COURTNEY: And writing two diaries. I can’t even write one!
MEGAN: And going over to see Harold Smith.
COURTNEY: I guess coke is just a hell of a drug. Oh, another question: She bought a chain to lock her door. But BOB is coming through the window all the time. Why wouldn’t you just lock your window?
MEGAN: He’s supernatural, right? So he can show up any time.
COURTNEY: But he’s gotta show up in the skin-bag of Leland, right?
MEGAN: What confuses me about that is when you see him in the show, he’s Frank Silva, the long silver-haired actor.
COURTNEY: Oh, do you think he’s wearing Donna’s jacket? No, it’s not as embellished!
MEGAN: It is a jean jacket.... So is that a form he can take, that crazy stringy-haired man? Or is that his true form?
COURTNEY: I think it’s his true form.
MEGAN: So she doesn’t know he’s inhabiting Leland, until that one scene which is really terrifying.
COURTNEY: Oh, super terrifying. But it’s weird because he can go into her, too.
MEGAN: Yeah. Isn’t that the reason she dies? Because he wants to inhabit her and she won’t let him?
COURTNEY: Yeah, she fights him. Go Laura!
MEGAN: Because she’s too strong. That’s how she does everything all day.
COURTNEY: She just powers through it.
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
Twin Peaks, Season 3
Starts Sun May 21 on Showtime