|Papers & Essayes
|David Lynch Keeps His Head by David Foster Wallace
6. WHAT 'LYNCHIAN' MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT
AN ACADEMIC DEFINITION of Lynchian might be that the term "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." But like postmodern or pornographic, Lynchian is one of those Porter Stewart-type words that's ultimately definable only ostensively i.e., we know it when we see it. Ted Bundy wasn't particularly Lynchian, but good old Jeffrey Dahmer, with his victims' various anatomies neatly separated and stored in his fridge alongside his chocolate milk and Shedd Spread, was thoroughgoingly Lynchian. A recent homicide in Boston, in which the deacon of a South Shore church reportedly gave chase to a vehicle that bad cut him off, forced the car off the road, and shot the driver with a highpowered crossbow, was borderline Lynchian. A Rotary luncheon where everybody's got a comb-over and a polyester sport coat and is eating bland Rotarian chicken and exchanging Republican platitudes with heartfelt sincerity and yet all are either amputees or neurologically damaged or both would be more Lynchian than not. A hideously bloody street fight over an insult would be a Lynchian street fight if and only if the insultee punctuates every kick and blow with an injunction not to say fucking anything if you can't say something fucking nice.
For me, Lynch's movies' deconstruction of this weird irony of the banal has affected the way I see and organize the world. I've noted since 1986 (when Blue Velvet was released) that a good 65 percent of the people in metropolitan bus terminals between the hours of midnight and 6 A.M. tend to qualify as Lynchian figures grotesque, enfeebled, flamboyantly unappealing, freighted with a woe out of all proportion to evident circumstances . . . a class of public-place humans I've privately classed, via Lynch, as "insistently fucked up." Or, e.g. we've all seen people assume sudden and grotesque facial expressions like when receiving shocking news, or biting into something that turns out to be foul, or around small kids for no particular reason other than to be weird but I've determined that a sudden grotesque facial expression won't qualify as a really Lynchian facial expression unless the expression is held for several moments longer than the circumstances could even possibly warrant, until it starts to signify about seventeen different thin sat once.