As an avowedskeptic, I readily volunteered to review Lynch’s bio-memoir to make sure the artist in question got a fair shake (from a non-“fanboy”), and also so that I might better understand a director about whom I have such mixed feelings. Right off the bat, let me inform you that this book is a very enjoyable read and that anyone who is remotely interested in the life of David Lynch should give it a go.
The format is slightly unconventional. The heavy lifting is done by long-time Lynch associate and friend Kristine McKenna, who provides the academic half of things. She conducted extensive interviews with Lynch’s family, colleagues, and the like, as well as got all the dates of events lined up with impeccable precision. Her half of each chapter comes first, providing the facts for every chunk of David’s (having gotten to know him so well by now, I’m going to call him by his given name) life, starting with token facts about his parents and early childhood. Having known the guy since the late ’70s, she’s on solid footing here, and though I haven’t run her sections through my fact-checker, I have no reason to doubt them.
David’s portion acts as a rejoinder to each of the “academic” chapters, bringing the memoir genre crashing into the more rigorous biographical genre. Coming across so much as a Midwestern all-around swell guy might have been unbelievable had his sections been presented without McKenna’s. However, judging from the remarks, anecdotes, and testimonials of the dozens (and dozens) of people interviewed for this book (and prior works), David comes across in his sections as honest, interesting, and, again, swell.
Room to Dream moves chronologically in structure, and breaking down the chapters so that each covers a specific big project (such as the hard work of Eraserhead, the serendipity of the Elephant Man, and the trial-by-producer-fiat of Dune) allows the book to be read in bits and bobs over a long course of time without compromising narrative flow. As I said before, it is all eminently readable and fun, and the reason I’ve avoided quoting any specific passages so far is that there are too many to bust out. That said, I will bring to your attention David’s most Lynchian phrase I’ve come across: “There’s a donut, and there’s a hole; and you should keep your eye on the donut.” (This bit of life coaching also appears in interviews he’s provided.) And in describing David’s voice, (a court adviser in Dune) says it’s “kind of like Peter Lorre from Philadelphia.” 1
Indeed, memorable quotations abound; so much so that my book-mark ran perilously close to running out of room as I jotted down page numbers. David Lynch is a great guy who’s led a highly enjoyable life marred only on occasion by artistic or professional setbacks (the closest he comes to criticizing anyone is describing his distaste for two French corporate “suits” who don’t share their eccentric industrialist boss’ vision). His greatest failing is perhaps is he falls in love with a consistency that precludes long marriages (he’s on his fourth wife).
And my criticisms of the man and his biography that I had hoped to unleash from the back of my mind? I couldn’t muster them. The name-dropping is a little overwhelming at times (less of a problem for readers in “the Biz”), and my only stylistic quibbles have more to do with my archaic language and syntax hang-ups than anything Kristine McKenna gets up to. I personally would never take a compound noun (“Executive-Producer”) and morph it into a verb (“Executive-Produce”) when the sentence structure could be shuffled ever so slightly to keep it a noun (or, as I’d prefer, the verb phrase “produce executively”). But as any sane person can see, this complaint is almost nonsensical.
To sum up: Room to Dream was so good that its section on Mulholland Drive (a movie I have disliked with a passion for over a decade) made me inclined to give it another go. Snap up a copy of this fine tome or borrow it from your local library. It will give you all the Lynch you could hope to digest.
- And just one more on a somewhat personal note. My hair is similar to David’s and over the years its verticality has oft been remarked on. As such, Kimmy Robertson’s Twin Peaks-era anecdote struck me: “If I asked him nicely, he let me run my fingers through his hair. The hair that grows on top of that head and what’s inside that head—you can feel that in his hair. David’s hair does something and it has a function and the function has to do with God.”