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Essential David Lynch Reads


Director David Lynch's aesthetic is so ipso facto that an adjectival form of his name floats around in the idiom of certain culture hounds for those rare occasions when something must be described that's wholly bizarre, gorgeous, sickening, and wonderful. So when Lynch and Showtime's dispute resulted in Lynch walking away from the upcoming Twin Peaks revival, it seemed impossible that the show would return to television. Since then, the filmmaker has once more agreed to direct the program, and we couldn't be more intrigued.

But what makes Lynch fascinating is not simply his oeuvre. He has, after all, inspired donuts. He's founded his own foundation for Transcendental Meditation. He's a man who doesn't believe a house should include a kitchen. So as we await the new season of Twin Peaks, we're digging into the best takes on David Lynch.

Twin peaks

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"The Lost Boys" by Mikal Gilmore
Rolling Stone March 6, 1997 (via EBSCOhost)
Mikal Gilmore's 1997 Rolling Stone cover story positions David Lynch at the precipice between a fall from grace and a comeback, but the portrait that emerges is hardly that of a middle-of-the-road director. Gilmore interrogates the extremes, turning over what makes Lynch's work the tops or anathema to different viewers and the ways that swings between mystery and disclosure have been encouraged or critically reviled. For the Lynch novice, this article is an excellent primer.

"The Quirky Allure of Twin Peaks" by John Leonard
New York Magazine May 7, 1990
You probably wouldn't expect an article about Twin Peaks to namecheck Barbara Ehrenreich, but that's exactly what John Leonard does in his musing on the television show. He also assumes a collage-work form, part Twin Peaks quotes, part profile, part criticism, and part think piece. Eventually Leonard concludes, "Wittgenstein had a philosophy, and Pynchon has some politics. Lynch is merely moody, more of a Warhol. Though beautiful to look at, there isn't much of anything inside his soft labyrinth except an unimportant secret."

"David Lynch Has a Great Idea for a Movie" by Claire Hoffman
New York Times Magazine February 24, 2013 (via ProQuest Research Library)
While Lynch's films are characterized by an unsettling quality, the director is also devoted to Transcendental Meditation. Claire Hoffman's profile asks if these two impulses are contradictory, to which Lynch replies, "Mother Nature is very, very happy when people stop suffering and move things forward in a beautiful way," adding, "That makes me feel good. I'm just the messenger. I'm just telling them what Maharishi told me."

"Picturing America" by Greil Marcus
Threepenny Review Fall 2006
Precisely what is so alluring about David Lynch's work is what frustrates others. I'm talking about what each of his works means. In this excerpt from Greil Marcus's The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, the critic advances his theory on how a trailer park might stand for a country in Twin Peaks. Drawing on a handful of cultural references from Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" to The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Marcus casts Twin Peaks as a contemplation on an American people with "used up" eyes.

"Wild at Art" by John O'Mahony
The Guardian January 12, 2002 (via ProQuest Research Library)
Although Lynch's aesthetic is instantly recognizable, John O'Mahony captures the diversity of the director's work, including Lynch's visual art. O'Mahony accretes details such as the preserved uterus Lynch keeps on his desk and the way that young Lynch began incorporating dead insects into his paintings, impressing upon the reader that the brushstrokes of this artist are always tinged with a touch of everyday macabre.

"David Lynch Keeps His Head" by David Foster Wallace
Premiere September 1996
Perhaps the most celebrated work on Lynch to date, David Foster Wallace's essay is remembered by many as the one in which the term Lynchian was coined. DFW, a huge fan of the director, visits the set of Lost Highway, where he never speaks with Lynch and explains that Lynchian "refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter.”

"Fields of Dreams: Dennis Lim on David Lynch" by Dennis Lim
Artforum January 2015 (via ProQuest Research Library)
Written at the time of Lynch's first U.S. museum retrospective "The Unified Field," Lim's essay follows the throughlines between Lynch's visual art and films, noting the instances at which the two diverge and complicate readings of the other. Fans may be surprised to learn that many of the paintings are text-heavy, unlike his films which often eschew dialogue in favor of bizarre snatches of melodramatic gesture and gloomy soundscapes.


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