It’s been a few months since I read Room to Dream and I’m still thinking about it. It’s definitely one of the most fascinating and frustrating Hollywood memoirs that I’ve ever read.
It’s fascinating because the book is not only about David Lynch but it’s also by him. Lynch, in his own words, tells us about his childhood, his time as an art student, his struggle to complete Eraserhead, and all the rest. He tells us about directing some of the greatest British thespians of all time in The Elephant Man and also shares with us the frustrations of directing Dune. He tells us about Twin Peaks and how Mulholland Drive went from being a rejected pilot to being an award-winning film.
All of the familiar stories are here. He tells us about the time when he was a child and he saw a naked and bloodied woman stumbling down the street. (This image would later reappear in Blue Velvet.) We hear about how he was essentially homeless while directing Eraserhead and how, during the casting of Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper called him up and announced that he was Frank Booth. Not surprisingly, Lynch writes extensively about the importance of meditation in both his life and his art.
At the same time, there’s also a lot of new stuff in this book. Did you ever want to know who Lynch believes to have been behind the Kennedy assassination? Well, it’s right there in the first chapter. Want to know how Lynch actually feels about using drugs as a creative aide? It’s in there. Did you know that among the films that David Lynch has been offered (and turned down) were Return of the Jedi, American Beauty, Tender Mercies, and The Ring? You do now. He writes about his occasionally difficult but very real friendship with actor Jack Nance. He writes about some of the legendary actors and producers that he’s met and what’s interesting is that he rarely has a bad word to say about anyone. Even when he writes about how difficult Anthony Hopkins was on the set of the The Elephant Man, Lynch still allows that Hopkins may have just been dealing with stuff in his own life. Lynch comes across as being as generous, artistic, and eccentric as you would hope that he would.
Clocking in at over 600 pages, the book has an interesting format. The book is divided into sections, each one dealing with a different period of Lynch’s life. Each section opens with Kristine McKenna discussing what was happening in Lynch’s life at the time and interviewing Lynch’s friends and collaborators. It’s only after McKenna has given us the facts of what was going on in Lynch’s life that Lynch then gives us his interpretation and recollections of the facts. It makes for a challenging but often interesting read. One thing that immediately becomes clear is that Lynch is far more comfortable talking about his art than talking about his relationships with other people. Lynch comes across as being the epitome of the artist who spend almost of all of his time in his own head. Room to Dream gives us a chance to see the world through Lynch’s eyes and he tends to remember most of the events of his life as if they were just another atmospheric scene in one of his movies.
Lynch discusses his work with such enthusiasm that it’s impossible not to get carried away with him. At that same time, this is not the book to read if you’re expecting Lynch to explain what’s going on underneath the surface of some of his more surrealistic films. If you’re expecting Lynch to explain why Bill Pullman turns into Balthazar Getty in Lost Highway, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re expecting Lynch to explain what’s real and what isn’t in Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire, it’s not going to happen. And if you’re expecting to understand the finale of Twin Peaks: The Return after reading Room to Dream, you’re out of luck. If anything, Lynch seems like even more of an enigma, albeit an incredibly likable enigma, after you read Room To Dream than before.
And yes, it can be frustrating but you know what? That’s okay. In fact, it seems appropriate. The brilliance of David Lynch lies in the mystery. When I first heard about Room to Dream, I feared that Lynch would reveal too much and the mystery would be lost. Instead, it’s even more fascinating than ever.