Saturday, March 15, 2014

The cleanest gun I'd ever seen

Oh, Dale.

I have a few carefully cultivated obsessions in my life. Books, obviously, are one of them. Dune is another. Twin Peaks is yet another.

I remember my parents taking my sister and I to their friends' houses to play and hearing the haunting Angelo Badalamenti theme floating through the air. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why I loved the stupid song "take my breath away" until I started watching the series with my parents as an adult - it has the same wrenching base signature that started every episode. I eventually used the theme as the processional at my wedding.

The internet is a wonderful thing. When I first watched the series I was totally transfixed by the story unfolding on the screen. When I watched it a second time, I had to have more and so I took to the internet and started collecting Twin Peaks stuff - I've got four books, three soundtracks, and Fire Walk With Me on DVD but I've held off on buying the show itself because I know that if I own it I'll start watching it and never stop.

My Life, My Tapes is a lot like the other non-show Twin Peaks merchandise - it creates a wonderful texture but doesn't answer any questions. It doesn't tell you what happened to Coop after the series ended, it doesn't tell you if Audrey survived the bank explosion. The charming and strange little book only tells you exactly who and what the charming and strange Agent Cooper was before he rolled into Twin Peaks.

The epistolary nature of the novel is interesting, though unsurprising in the context of the show - everyone who had heard Dale start a random sentence with "Diane," knew that this was a man who had spent a lot of his life speaking into a microphone. It is, however, surprisingly funny. I particularly like the quotes from Dale's friends and associates at the beginning of each chapter, as they provide wonderful sparks of insight into the loveable weirdo's character.

The book falls apart a little bit at the end. In the show the Windom Earle plotline seems like it's shoehorned in, and the dynamic isn't any different when it's written instead of filmed: every interaction with Earle feels more forced and less natural than any other part of the book. Once Earle is institutionalized and Coop is shipped off to San Francisco things seem to perk up again.

I do like the book but it always makes me sad. There's just no walking away from the fact that you're encountering a funny, sweet young character and following his life only to have the story finish just a few weeks before his encounter with the Black Lodge.

I hope you're okay, Dale, and that there's some good coffee wherever you are.

     - Alli

Frost, Scott. The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes. 
     Simon & Schuster. New York: New York. 1991.

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