Room to Dream is the latest and most definitive retrospective on David Lynch, incorporating fantastic research by journalist Kristine McKenna and infused with the famous director’s own first-person perspective, creating a one-of-a-kind biography/auto-biography hybrid that is sure to please any fan of Lynch’s work.
To read into Room to Dream, you get the sense that the universe has always had a soft spot for David Lynch. Although he most certainly paid his dues, being born without any Hollywood pedigree to cash in on and instead having to start off as the struggling art student too busy with painting to be bothered by attending classes, it seems that Lynch’s success was a foregone conclusion at the moment he decided to explore film as a medium. From the birth of Eraserhead to his current status as legendary cinematic auteur and everything in between, McKenna’s book ells the story in its entirety.
Most of the details, of course, have already been well-covered, such as Lynch’s on-set difficulties with Sir Anthony Hopkins during the filming of The Elephant Man, or the mixed-blessing that was directing the box-office flop, Dune. The difference is in the way journalist Kristine McKenna and David Lynch himself choose to approach those details that makes their collaboration worthy of attention.
Every chapter is essentially structured into two sections. In each first part, McKenna does the leg work of any responsible biographer, interviewing all subjects close to Lynch, as well as compiling research meticulous enough to warrant a footnotes section at the end of the book. Once you’ve read through her portion, you move on to part two, which is basically Lynch’s version of the chapter, in which he occasionally contradicts information that McKenna provides, but more often than not instead chooses to elaborate with casual anecdotes. This results in a biography with its own sort of running director’s commentary, much like what you’d expect on a film’s DVD release.
At times, Room to Dream comes off as insightful, but as is true with real-life conversations, the narrative has a tendency to go off the rails, lost in details that distract more than they might illuminate. Depending on how you feel about David Lynch, however, that might not be a bad thing, as it sometimes feels like this is as near as one gets to sitting across from him over coffee for an intimate conversation about life as he remembers it. Likewise, this is the most up-to-date retrospective Lynch fans could ask for, covering the entire span of his career, from his humble 1950s upbringing in a quaint Boise, Idaho neighborhood, to his more recent third season revival of Twin Peaks on Showtime.
Room to Dream isn’t a conventional biography, and those looking to read this purely for insight into the creation of iconic works like Blue Velvet or Mullholland Drive would be better served by traditional biographies like Dennis Lim’s David Lynch: The Man From Another Place (Icons) or Greg Olson’s David Lynch: Beautiful Dark. Take into account how wonderfully researched McKenna’s contributions are in conjunction with Lynch’s openness in each chapter, however, and you’ll begin to appreciate how her work is the next best thing to unfettered access to the man himself. True fans of David Lynch should consider this required reading.