David Lynch Experiments With Memoir in “Room to Dream”

David Lynch Experiments With Memoir in “Room to Dream”

At the recent Festival of Disruption in Brooklyn, filmmaker David Lynch offered a simple sentence to explain his resistance toward interpreting his own work: “Words fail.”

This sentiment echoes throughout Lynch’s new memoir, “Room to Dream,” sounding its final note on page 506 with Lynch concluding, “If I look at any page of this book, I think, Man, that’s just the tip of the iceberg; there’s so much more, so many more stories. You could do an entire book on a single day and still not capture everything.”

Created in collaboration with journalist Kristine McKenna, “Room to Dream” is a doorstop of a book that builds most of its heft through a slow accumulation of granular details, all of which present plenty of material for Lynch fans to devour. As with most projects that Lynch touches, the structure of the book is atypical and visually unique. Every chapter switches between biography (written by McKeena and supplemented by an impressive roster of interviews) and memoir (McKeena’s same story retold by Lynch). This technique flings readers back in time at the conclusion of each biographical chapter, where they then find themselves confronted by the voice of Lynch and a change from sans-serif to serif font.

David Lynch. Photo courtesy Scott Ressler.

Though Lynch generally refrains from responding directly to McKeena, the back-and-forth construction allows Lynch to patch any holes in his life story that he sees. These corrections are often minor and include passages such as: “It’s pretty much true that I prefer working with relatively unknown actors, but the fact that they’re unknown isn’t the thing — it’s that they’re the right person for the part. That’s what I go for.” Or, “I’m quoted saying that I like the look of figures in a garden at night, but I don’t really like gardens except for a certain kind.” More often, however, McKeena’s chapters seem to spur Lynch into conversational tangents that slip into the present tense and come alive. It’s here that we learn of a kiss with Elizabeth Taylor and of childhood experiments with bombs (a recurring motif for the director, who grew up in the postwar world of the 1950s).

Still, as the introduction notes, this book is not an “explanation” of what Lynch’s work means but rather an attempt to document how things came to be. And while words may fail and fail again, Lynch’s own writing captures the truth at the core of this experiment: “So much goes on that people will never know about with every film. You can tell all the stories you want, but you still haven’t gotten across what the experience was like. It’s like telling somebody a dream. It doesn’t give them the dream.”

Top Image: Courtesy of Dean Hurley