The recently rehabilitated Roundhouse in Chalk Farm – and beautifully rehabilitated it has been too - hosted the ITunes festival this summer, Oasis and Snow Patrol among the headliners. As an intriguing diversion, the venue’s new boutique studio hosted someone well versed in rock spectacle but now spreading his literary wings.
Admitting the thought of reading in public for the first time left him a little dry-mouthed. Cave was a long way from the young warrior-priest leading the Birthday Party through its combustible early 80s campaign. He seemed in good spirits answering questions posed by Sean O’Hagan, though the sycophantic atmosphere that pervaded the Q&A session did him few favours. His audience didn’t get too far beyond telling him how great he was and wondering how close he is to the central character in his book (not at all, he grimaced in reply).
Photo: Nick Cave by Gavin Evans
The Death of Bunny Munro is not for the faint-hearted. It’s set in Cave’s hometown,
Photo: Nick Cave by David Richardson
Bunny’s not really the core of the book however; instead, it is the nine-year-old son he has to steward following his wife’s suicide who provides some kind of moral context. In conversation, Cave admits that the boy’s idolatry of a father not worth much beyond biological debt (calling him ‘Bunny Jnr’ is symptomatic of dad’s lack of imagination) is inspired, at one tangent, by his own experience of fatherhood. He states that boys aged nine can’t help but think their dad is superman. (my own nine-year-old would certainly dispute that).
There are touching passages as Junior begins to slowly comprehend that things are not as they should be, as he returns again to his encyclopaedia to try to make sense of his collapsing world. His trust in his remaining parent is an affecting article of blind faith that is at once delusional and heart-warming. I’m not sure the sympathy aroused blots out the sheer weight of his father’s debasement. And the dream-like redemptive ending, set in that paradigm of working class British holiday retreats, Butlin’s, seems contrived. Otherwise Cave’s humour holds good. There’s a grim joy of recognition in anticipating exactly how Bunny is going to react to his circumstances (if it has a pulse, attempt to hump it; if it has money, don’t leave without it). Some anatomical asides about Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavigne are great value and the whole piece is evocative of a sordid, lost
By Alex Ogg
Alex Ogg is an author, freelance writer, catalogue A&R Consultant and Project
Photo by David Richardson