It takes a tag-team effort to tell this ambitious life of the enigmatic filmmaker and artist.
Lynch (Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, 2006) has always been an outsider when it comes to his films, art, and photography, so it comes as no surprise that this dual biography/autobiography is “strange,” as the authors describe it. Journalist and friend McKenna (The Ferus Gallery: A Place to Begin, 2009, etc.) pens an insightful, well-researched, conventional biography in chapters drawing mostly on interviews. Lynch’s chapters follow hers, responding like “a person having a conversation with his own biography.” Inevitably, there is repetition, and it’s not uncommon for McKenna to tell a story one way and Lynch to tell it differently. Lynch comes across as an amiable, chatty fellow who wears his brilliance lightly. He writes lovingly of his “dreamy,” itinerant, middle-class childhood where the roots for his films were first planted. He enthusiastically describes how he felt after receiving an American Film Institute grant that would allow him to make his first feature film, Eraserhead. McKenna writes that “John Waters encouraged his fans” to see it, and Stanley Kubrick “loved” it. It also got Mel Brooks’ attention, and he asked Lynch to direct The Elephant Man for his production company. Lynch describes making the film as a “baptism of fire.” It was “a beautiful story and a beautiful experience and it’s timeless.” Next came Dune, which “brought him to his knees,” McKenna writes—but it also “helped clarify precisely who he is as a filmmaker.” It was a “good thing,” Lynch responds, “to have a humiliating major failure.” In the end, Lynch sums it all up: “It’s impossible to really tell the story of somebody’s life, and the most we can hope to convey here is a very abstract ‘Rosebud.’ ”
Although an awkward read, the book abounds in great stories and terrific movie trivia that will sate Lynch fans for years to come.