Book Review: Room to Dream

Beautiful is the best word to describe Room to Dream, the hybrid biography/memoir written by David Lynch in collaboration with journalist, Kristine McKenna. Lynch uses the word beautiful often to describe various moments of his life, and somehow even though he uses it often, each time the term is invoked, he adds a special layer of singular majesty to what he’s describing.

David Lynch is one of my favorite artists. I say artists because while he’s most well-known for his filmmaking, he’s an accomplished actor, musician, writer, painter, furniture builder; the list goes on. Room to Dream is unsurprisingly not your typical memoir. McKenna provides expert, researched, and detailed accounts of the chronology of Lynch’s life, and after each “account” (I hesitate to call them chapters), Lynch delivers what would be best described as a “companion story” that in essence filters McKenna’s account through the Lynchian lens. This system is instantly endearing, and I found myself looking forward to each writer’s sections for entirely different but equally fascinating reasons.

David Lynch 2008 – Used with permission under CC-BY-SA

More than once, McKenna and Lynch warn you that there’s no summing up the life and stories of David Lynch in any one book. A book could be written on any one of these stories alone, therefore, the best way to take this book is as an extended conversation more or less through the life and times of Lynch with no time to waste. We get a little of everything here, and it satisfies. As a deeply enthusiastic Twin Peaks devotee, there is quite a bit to enjoy in Lynch’s discussion of the original series, the follow-up prequel film Fire Walk with Me, and the 2017 reboot, Twin Peaks: The Return, for Showtime. Twin Peaks clearly holds a special place in Lynch’s heart and the series solidified life-long relationships between Lynch and co-writer Mark Frost as well as musical collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. An accessibly delivered thread through his entire filmography is also crafted brilliantly in that the reader can truly follow each step in Lynch’s career and how that forged a path to his next endeavor. McKenna punctuates many of the stories in the book with quotes from many of the people who worked with Lynch or knew him including Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Sheryl Lee, and countless others.

Lynch comes across as the artist we all know he is: dedicated to creativity, desirous of the artist lifestyle, uncompromising (except for his time with Dune, which only reaffirmed his decision to be uncompromising), and passionate. The book has no low-lights, but some highlights for me were the stories about Harry Dean Stanton, Marlon Brando, and the insanity that lead to Mulholland Drive finally becoming what we know it to be today.

Lynch also spends time championing his foundation and the importance of transcendental meditation. The book allows him to expound a bit more on this topic and not be relegated to sound bites in terms of the importance this practice has had on his art form and his career. While Room to Dream is an enjoyable review of Lynch’s famous works, the book also is the most concise synopsis of his lesser-known works perhaps ever assembled. Lynch and McKenna provide discourse on the inspirations behind Lynch’s artwork, short films, and commercials. I have been a fan of Lynch’s for years, but I have never been inclined to look into his minor works, of which there are many. I missed the DavidLynch.com era, which is nicely documented in this book, but I have since done a deep dive and have really enjoyed the experience of viewing his short films, especially after reading the stories behind them. The biggest revelation for me is seeing the humorous and comedic material Lynch made. Humor has always been a part of Lynch’s persona and his work, but I had no idea that he had ideas for full-feature slapstick comedies like One Saliva Bubble, which was a vehicle for Steve Martin and Martin Short that never happened, or that he created hilarious short pieces like The Anacin Commercial or The Cowboy and the Frenchman, both of which bear Lynch’s signature style, but involve so much more levity than I’m used to seeing in his works! This ice-bucket challenge from 2014 is an easy example to illustrate what I mean!

Room to Dream is a wonderful collection of stories and insight on a brilliant man who is always evolving and always learning. Read the bit about his discovery of the program Photoshop, and you’ll see the spirit that lives inside him. Where many of us would see Photoshop as useful or perhaps even intimidating, Lynch saw it as a monolithic step to create art, beyond anything many of us can fathom.

If you can’t tell, I just loved this book. I loved it so much in fact, that when I heard for the audio version, Lynch did not read his sections but rather just used them as talking points, I went and got that version as well. The audio book works very well as a companion to the print book itself. Where in the book, Lynch is much more organized in his thought process and story points, the audio version (spoken by Lynch, of course) offers a more conversational and alive rendition of his stories providing a separate experience to enjoy.

This book is a must for any fan of David Lynch or his work, but I also recommend it to even the casual fan of his. I do think for one to get the full impact of this book there is some expectation in being familiar with his work to some degree. He rarely takes time to provide context for the discussions of his films, and he references elements of them without explanation from time to time seemingly assuming the audience has some idea of what he’s talking about. However, many of his stories are relatable and enjoyable for anyone who can appreciate the life of an artist who loves what he does.

Room to Dream by David Lynch & Kristine McKenna. Canongate Books, 592 pp., 2018. Hardcover: $32.00

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