…With a mandatory touch of C. S. Lewis.
[SPOILERS for both Twin Peaks and some recent Koontz novels; usual warning]
My previous post addressed the series finale of Twin Peaks as such (given the age of the creators, the time it took to make this season, and the 18 hours spent supposedly telling this story that could have been told in half the time, it likely is the series finale).
I addressed Lewis’s argument that we should not read too much into a work of fiction that isn’t there, and suggested that Lynch’s point is to criticize his own fans, and TV/movie viewers in general, for doing the same. He essentially says, “This is all just a fantasy. Stop making more of it than it is. These aren’t real people.”
Now, some thoughts on the whole “David Lynch is an artist” “argument” and the notion of “fans’ expectations.” To this, I bring in Lewis’s criticism of the view that a poet could just say “I’m a poet,” and that makes his view of poetry superior to the view of “non-poets.”
It annoys me when I take my kids to a museum to learn about art and the curator says, “Well, art can be whatever you want.” No, it can’t. It has to have rules. It has to express something. If a person writes the word “appeal” and means “apple,” that expresses something different. If a person draws a picture, it has to be something the viewer can understand before it can convey any message. Most modernism and postmodernism is just the Emperor’s New Clothes: everyone saying “It’s genius! He’s a genius! It’s amazing!” and dismissing anyone who disagrees as an uncultured buffoon because the “art” is not about expressing something so much as providing an avenue to elitism: a tendency Lewis saw in Eliot and condemned among the intelligentsia in “Lilies that Fester.”
When an entertainer/artist has a long and relatively successful career, he inevitably changes. Either he gets “more commercial” or “more artistic.” Either he gains confidence in putting more of his worldview into his work or perhaps he changes/matures in it. Thus, I often speak of the three camps of Eliot fans: those who prefer the “Prufrock/Waste-Land Era,” those who prefer the “Four Quartets Era,” and those who see them as a continuum. When I taught literature, I would point out how two writers can use very similar situations with slight differences to demonstrate their worldviews. Flannery O’Connor and Edgar Allen Poe, for example, can use a similar circumstance to show hope and despair, respectively.
MIKE’s line on Twin Peaks: the Return: “Is it past or is it future?” recalls the famous line from Four Quartets: “In my end is my beginning.” To the secular reader, Four Quartets is a meditation on time and destiny, while the Christian reader sees Four Quartets as Lord of the Rings: a sophisticated Christian epic deeper than a mere allegory.
To date, I’ve read Brother Odd and Odd Thomas, and have started Forever Odd. My wife has read many Koontz novels and told me about them, as well as interviews, discussion groups, Amazon reviews, etc., and speaks of how many “longtime Koontz fans” are disappointed by more overtly books like the Odd Thomas series and Innocence, even though the titles should be huge spoilers.
From a Catholic perspective, Saint Odd and Innocence have the happiest endings a story possibly could, like every C. S. Lewis novel. From the perspective of someone expecting a classic horror story or a classic romance story, however, they’re disappointing.
“David Lynch fans” look at Twin Peaks: the Return and say “It’s genius,” like the Emperor’s subjects in Andersen’s fairy tale, or the snobs at Lewis’s proverbial cherry party, because they don’t want to be counted among the philistines who “don’t get it.” Some, however, admit they don’t get it, that it should be different from a “typical Lynch movie,” or even that it is different in the wrong way from one.
However, I’d say Lynch is conveying a message. He’s conveying the message he wants to convey, and that’s why some people dismissively say “It’s existentialism,” because it is. To the existentialist, life is ultimately despair, and you piece it together by enjoying cherry pies and chocolate bunnies. It is “about the bunny,” Lynch would answer Lucy. To the Platonist and Hindus, we’re all spirits in another realm controlling bodies that are essentially avatars, reliving our lives till we get them right. This is one possible interpretation of the tulpas in Twin Peaks. Another is that the finale shows the “Balance in the Force.” Whether they’re all dream-selves of the same dreamer, or reincarnations/avatars of the same being in the Red Room, or something else, the lesson that evil is inevitable and needs to be balanced, not stopped, is in keeping with the Dualistic worldview of Gnosticism/Platonism/Hinduism-Buddhism/New Age/etc.
There is something Catholic in the notion that we can’t “destroy” evil. We can’t have a magic fist that bashes the Devil into smithereens. We can’t go back and undo the evil of the past without destroying the future because the past dictates the future. Once Barry Allen saves his mother, the cosmos can never be completely the same, even if he goes back to let her die again, and Barry has to live in the personal hell of knowing how many times he’s changed everyone’s lives. This seems to be the almost-tacked on lesson of Twin Peaks, not because Cooper needs to learn it but the viewer does.
Koontz gives us a similar blend of horror, mystery, humor and romance with the lesson that all this misery points to Heaven. As Chesterton would say, Lynch gives us the gargoyles–with fragments of the Temple. Koontz gives us the gothic cathedral. Both draw from Eliot, and both get in their long time fans the same polarized reactions as Eliot did.