Sunday, April 30, 2017

Making Twin Peaks boring takes a special kind of skill

A new season of Twin Peaks is coming out after a 25-year delay and I'm FUCKING STOKED. So I've been trying to spend some time with TP-related media. I'm rewatching the original series with my parents, I'm seeing a lot of TP art, and I finally read the copy of Wrapped in Plastic that's been sitting on my shelf for a couple of months.

Unfortunately Wrapped in Plastic kind of sucked!

Here's the deal: I'm hind of damagingly obsessed with Twin Peaks. Like to the point that I have to carefully ration the time that I'm allowed to watch it because at one point I rewatched the series three times in a week and didn't sleep. I'm *INTO* Twin Peaks. I find it fascinating and I like reading about its history and production as well as getting excited about the show and the new series and cool criticism of the canon. As such I read the truly excellent Full of Secrets collection - it's a selection of critical essays exploring everything from the import of diegetic sound to the place of domestic violence in the filmmaking of Lynch. Because I'd purchased Full of Secrets from Amazon I started getting recommendations for Wrapped in Plastic and after a few months I decided, "yeah, I'm ready for some more critical insights into this great show I love!" and bought the book.

It was a pretty significant disappointment.

All I knew about this book is that it showed up as a recommendation because I'd read another book full of pretty heady criticism (I know when I initially read the other I got pissed at postmodernists for thinking the transcript of a four-hour masturbatory phone call counted as a paper) so I was expecting some insight or at least some history that I wasn't familiar with.

What I got instead was about 100 pages of very readable, fun, light-weight trivia and fluff. It isn't a bad book, Wrapped In Plastic is well written and easy to get through, but it's also basic as fuck. A lot of what the author Andy Burns discusses in the book is stuff that shows up in the DVD extras or in essays Lynch has written or in interviews with actors from years ago. It's all stuff that's already out there.

It does seem like Burns did get a little hustle going and reached out to some series regulars for quotes once the new season was announced, but that kind of makes this book worse. It makes it seem like a cash grab for an inexplicable group of people. This book has more info about what a cultural phenomenon the show was than you'd get out of just watching the show but less analysis of that cultural impact than you'd be looking for if you were a fan of either the show OR cultural criticism. It kind of feels like the book was written to explain to new viewers in 2017 why the show was such a big stinky deal in 1992 but of all the people I know who are into the series none of them - old or new - has any questions about that aspect of the culture.

We've seen it, we're into it enough to buy a book about it, we KNOW it was a big deal and it was unusual, now dig into the nitty-gritty because we all started on the same page.

The blurb on Amazon describes the book thusly: "in Wrapped in Plastic, pop culture writer Andy Burns uncovers and explores the groundbreaking stylistic and storytelling methods that have made the series one of the most influential and enduring shows of the past 25 years" and the back cover is dotted with recommendations from actors TP fans will recognize, which is what sold me on buying it - it was called a Must Read and Essential and a bunch of other things. And what it is is a very basic primer on a show that I know an awful lot about.

So if you're new to the series and want to know what's up without watching the original 30 episodes (why?) and want to read a little 100 page book instead, Wrapped in Plastic is for you. Otherwise, skip it.

Here's where you can get Wrapped in Plastic, though I don't recommend it.

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