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Death of Bunny Munro in Edinburgh

I love Nick Cave for his music. Not his writing.

In fact, I haven't read much of his writing at all. Only enough to note that it is very rythmic, at times carelessly obscene, and really rather dark. None of these necessarily translate as bad. But I am not an obsessive fan of Nick Cave the author. As of yet.

Even so, when it became apparent that the man was coming to Edinburgh to give a reading, I did not hesitate to throw caution to the winds and run around the block to purchase tickets for Tim, Rebekah, Tor and me, at £25 a piece. We got the final four in the shop (which was a rather delicious record store I had never noticed before, but which I vowed to visit again soon).

Today was the day. We arrived in good time, ready for the doors to open at 7. Seats on the balcony, which is never ideal, but what can you do. I was pleasantly surprised by the venue. The last time I had gone to see the man play, the venue had been really rather dingy. This was a clean and friendly location with a modernised feel of an old fashioned movie theatre. We sat on purple cushions, and there was a bar behind and underneath us. I was quite excited at the thought that I might actually see something this time.

Now. Whenever Nick Cave speaks, I am shocked to find that the man is Australian. Every time. Equally. I swear you cannot tell when he sings, but when he reads, or just makes conversation ... . This time was no different. He opened with Chapter 3 (to be found here). I had previously had a look at the book, both in print (available here) and audio (here). And I had noticed something important. When I first read through the first chapter, I didn't much like it. What struck me was the obscenity scattered around in it. I react adversely to that sort of thing. And then I came across it in audio, and I realised I had made a mistake. I had read it too fast. If I am ever buying this book, it will not be in print. I need the rhythm of Nick Cave's reading to appreciate it properly. With that, the despair of the moment hit me, and I was able to appreciate that there might be a function to that obscenity. I suppose you cannot write a character like Bunny Munro inside his head without it.

Nonetheless. I was worried when he read Chapter 3, that the whole book would be one long orgy of (really rather inventive) descriptions of the female form and its various sexual possibilities. And because Tor was sitting next to me, I was worried he would now stop liking Nick Cave because his first experience of the man was sub-optimal. And then the music happened.

It was obvious from the start that a book reading by Nick Cave could never be like an ordinary book reading. I was aware that music would be involved at some point (indeed, it is one of the reasons why I went) -- if nothing else, it would be obvious from the instruments scattered about the stage when we entered. And while it was not a full-blown concert (there being only three musicians -- Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and Martyn Casey), it was much more than I had expected.

Being too scatterbrained to remember to bring pen and paper, there is now no way I can remember all the songs that were played. Maybe the rest of the crowd can help. I know we heard West Country Girl, Mercy Seat, Tupelo, Digg! Lazarus, Digg!, The Weeping Song, Lime Tree Arbour, Into My Arms, The Ship Song and (finally, and gloriously, after rather a long applause to get them back on stage) Red Right Hand. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite a light show which seemed designed to blind us, and my aversion to hearing songs sung differently to how I normally hear them.

The later chapters of the book itself were also rather more enjoyable. Especially the encounter with the tae kwon do lady, and a discussion of Frida Kahlo. I will say no more. I suppose that having established the character of Bunny in the earlier chapters, more fun could be had with him in the later. I don't know. And the introduction of Bunny's son (Bunny Junior), whose taste for reading the encyclopedia I felt was the sign of a kindred spirit.

I still maintain the music was the high point of the evening (although I can hardly see how it could be otherwise when Nick Cave performs), but I would not have missed the book-reading, either. Or the odd Q & A form of the evening: shout the question at a random moment, and have it answered immediately. This is how we learnt that his sudden lack of a moustache is due to his wife and a bottle of rohypnol, and that he intends to give her a very stern talking-to when she comes out of hiding.

In short, the man is still delightful. Even if his protagonist isn't.


Tor,  14.10.09 01:05

I had actually pictured Nick Cave, sitting in a comfortable leather chair, with his vulgar mustache and too many buttons unbuttoned in his shirt. He would have a small table by his side, and on this table there would be a cup of tea which he would sip from as he read for us.

I was somewhat disappointed. But it was okay.

Camilla,  14.10.09 01:09

The big question is, what caused the disappointment? The lack of tea? The lack of armchairs? Or the lack of the mustache?

Karoline,  17.10.09 20:47

Artig du, Camilla. Burde vært skribent ;)

Tor,  18.10.09 14:13

Oh, I think all three. It wouldn't have been the same without the mustache.
Nick Cave
Death of Bunny Monro