Throughout the month of January, I read three books relating in some way to David Lynch and/or Mark Frost. One of those books was written by a co-creator directly. Another was a novelization of another creator’s most mainstream work. The last has been consistently cited by that same creator as one of his most firm influences. In the course of the reading of these books, I tried to draw some connections either with how the works relate to the more familiar works of the co-creators at large or, in the case of the novelization, how it is comparable to the filmed work. This connectivity should prove useful and maybe revelatory.
The first book I completed was the spy thriller penned by Mark Frost called The Second Objective. It was a highly complex novel set duing the height of World War Two in the European Theatre. A terrorist organization is trying to assassinate General Eisenhower. Since I am neither someone interested in spy thrillers (the seminal Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by LeCarre bored me) nor historical fiction set during World War Two, the book did not hold my interest, unfortunately. Though I do see that it would be a good book if someone else with an interest in either read it.
In this book, I did find two connections. Mark Frost has a stated obsession with secretive, almost Black Ops-style, governmental or nongovernmental organizations. In this novel, that is the terrorist organization plotting to kill General Eisenhower. There are also other governmental organizations in this novel not working in the full light of the public to perform work for their governments. This is similar in the Secret History of Twin Peaks with all of the Air Force Alien Projects, like Project Sign and Project Blue Book. The Blue Rose Task Force and The Bookhouse Boys are another instance of this stated interest of Mark Frost.
The second connection may reveal something very interesting. In an Afterword, which provides some historical context to the fictional events of the novel, Frost writes something enlightening. The main character of the story “would spend the next twenty-five years straddling the unsettling line between Western intelligence informant and godfather to the surviving remnants of the Waffen-SS, known initially as ‘The Brotherhood’ and later more notoriously as Odessa.”(287) Additionally Frost notes, “Operationally concieved on the back of Skorzeny’s World War Two commando force, to this day Odessa remains the original prototype for the modern terrorist organization.” (287) This is interesting in light of where Cooper goes searching for Laura. He searches for her in Odessa, Texas. This may show that Frost considers the supernatural forces of the Black Lodge to be like a terrorist organization. Odessa is the prototype of terrorist organizations and the place which, in a way, holds Laura prisoner under an assumed identity. It is a location where cowboys terrorize waitstaff. A place that is so desolate that it is a terrorizing place to be.
The second book I read was the novelization of David Lynch’s The Elephant Man written by Christine Sparks. Something interesting that I learned a long time ago, film novelizations often use the first completed draft of the script without any on-set emendations made during the course of the filming. Surprisingly, Lynch, who is wont to change his mind frequently during filming, didn’t change as much. Perhaps because this was a studio film and Lynch was still quite new at filmmaking, there were not that many so changes as to make the two completely unrecognizable. The overall plot and the smallest details are quite similar.
The difference lies solely in the nature of the two media. A film also has time constraints no matter how long Lynch can stretch a scene. Therefore, in the novelization, the reader gets quite a bit of backstory for not only Treves and Merrick but also Mothershead. We also get a name for the awful night porter who preys on Merrick, Jim Renshaw. Though it never humanizes the monster that is Renshaw, it was an interesting tidbit and took a while to get used to whom Sparks was talking. It also lengthens some scenes and adds some additional information. For example, we get Merrick meeting Treves daughters (which the film viewer didn’t even know he had daughters) and them gifting him their copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. We learn how Merrick loves reading and people keep gifting him books once he becomes popular with the British elite. We learn more about his night out in the theatre and the excited preparations the nurses and Merrick are making in the process. We learn exactly why Merrick lays down flat. It wasn’t as if he wanted to die, or thought his life was complete in any way. He lays down out of a sense of curiosity on how it would feel to sleep like other people. This book was quite good for those who like the Lynch film. It was well-written.
The final work that I read is something Lynch continually cites as his most influential work, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Many Lynch fans are aware of the basic plot. A man wakes one day to find that he has turned into a bug. However, there are other parts of the plot that seem interesting in comparison to the larger Lynch ouvre. The most basic comparison is someone changing into something else and not being immediately aware upon waking. That happens in most of Lynch’s later films. Another facet is added when taken into consideration that Gregor, the subject of the story, is now trapped at home. He has parents and a sister that depend on him. His family home becomes a hell that none of them can escape. This is similar to the hell that Diane Selwyn’s home, Laura Palmer’s home, the Madison home, and Susan Blue’s home all become.
Moreover, everyone they know seems to comprehend that the family is in trouble. Gregor’s boss and several of the men that the family are forced to take in don’t seem to really care that the family is in trouble. Yes, the lodgers give the family money, but little assistance elsewise. Again this is similar to many of the issues that Lynch shows in his films. Everyone knew Laura was in trouble but didn’t do much, except the barest minimum, to help. Lastly, his transformation into a bug is horrifying to everyone. This sort of reminds me how terrified everyone is of John Merrick and how horrified even its own mother and father are of the Eraserhead baby. The book ends in a bittersweet way as much of Lynch films do as well. Gregor dies but now the family has hope that they can live again. This is most reminiscent of the ending of Blue Velvet. The Beaumonts, Sandy and her father all gather for a peaceful picnic after the horrors of their life before.
The last connection is less of a parallel with the content of Kafka’s novella and Lynch’s films but more of a tonality parallel. For a 45-page novella, it goes incredibly slowly. It takes a bit to get into the plot. In fact, the first of three chapters is spent as Gregor is trying desperately to get out of bed. We are subject to his thoughts and struggles to come to terms and figure out what is occurring to him. Lynch’s films are, of course, known for their slower pace. It is also very dreamlike as the reader is not quite sure what is occuring. In fact it could be described as a horrible nightmare.
It was an interesting experiment reading these three books through the course of January. I learned a lot about the thought processes of our two creators and how they have influenced Twin Peaks and Lynch films overall. I also had an interesting time comparing and contrasting Christine Spark’s novelization of The Elephant Man film with the film itself. Perhaps you too can explore these works and see what you come up with.
Frost, Mark. The Second Objective. Hatchette Books, 2007. Nook eBook edition.
Sparks, Christine. The Elephant Man: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group, 2011. Nook eBook edition.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. Found in Franz Kafka: The Complete Novels. HB Classics, 2022. Nook eBook edition.