By Vish KhannaNick Cave is one of the most respected singers and songwriters in the world, whose storied 30-year career has seen him lead innovative and influential punk-infused rock 'n' roll bands like the Birthday Party, the Bad Seeds, and Grinderman, not to mention collaborating with Kylie Minogue and Johnny Cash, among other notable artists. He has created stirring soundtracks for films such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and composed the acclaimed screenplay for 2005's The Proposition, which was set in his native Australia. His first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, was hailed as a remarkable debut upon its publication in 1989. 20 years later, Cave has just released his second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, the tragically twisted tale of a middle-aged sex addict in Brighton, who's driven to his own demise. The Death of Bunny Munro is now available on Harper Collins Books and Cave made time to chat with us about it during lunch in Toronto.
I don't think he's a sex addict.
You don't? No. "Sex addict" is a kind of modern phrase, which suggests that he's in recovery of some sort.
That's true. He's a sex maniac. He's certainly a maniac, in the sense that, through the course of the book, he's driven insane by his desires.
I see him as a fiend who starts out likeably enough but then kind of crumbles before our eyes into this figure who is, in fact, damn near impossible to like. Who is Bunny exactly and, as his creator, where do you suppose he comes from? Well, it's funny that you don't like him. People have varying views on this particular character. Some people warm to him tremendously. A lot of women don't like him but are happy about his existence because they feel I've revealed something about the male psyche that they've suspected all along. Yes, and there are other people who just think he's a nasty piece of work.
So, where do you suppose he actually comes from; what inspired you to create Bunny Munro? It actually started off as a screenplay that I wrote for John Hillcoat, who made The Proposition. It was gonna be our second film that we made together. He came to me and asked, would I write the next screenplay for him, and he wanted a film about a travelling salesman. He was particularly interested in that subject matter ― why, I'm not actually quite sure. So, I took it away and concocted a story that had things that I was actually quite interested in as well, and also this travelling salesmen theme. We interviewed some travelling salesmen, watched various documentaries, read about them, and discovered certainly a kind of underbelly or darker world that existed of womanizing, alcoholism, and drug-taking.
So, kind of standard things you might associate with travelling on the road, as a musician perhaps? Absolutely.
What is the connection between sexual conquest and good salesmanship? Well, obviously he's using his powers of persuasion, as a salesman, which he's actually quite good at or he thinks he's quite good at, in order to get into the pants of the various women that he comes across. He's on a desperate flight away from love I think, and intimacy, as addicts often are.
You said he wasn't an addict. Well, as addicts do…he wouldn't call himself an addict.
I'm not a doctor by the way. No, no, me either.
The novel really does seem to be fuelled by dysfunction; whether it's between Bunny and his wife, his son, and his father, or this landscape that's literally on fire at first and then baptized in rain later, and terrorized by a devil-like serial killer. What exactly inspired the crooked little world you've conjured in this book? What I try and do with my songs, the books I've written, or the screenplays, is to create an alternate world of some sort. But it needs to be recognizable, in the way that dreams are recognizable but alien at the same time. I think largely what I'm doing is creating dream worlds, and The Death of Bunny Munro is very much like that. Time slows down and speeds up…
There are spectres, there are hazy moments… Absolutely, it's a dream-like world.
The language you use is kind of beautifully vulgar throughout, kind of blunt and bawdy; why did you opt to render the story in this manner? Why was I vulgar? The guy's a sex maniac!