The Cave of Nick: Grief, Optimism and Creativity

My entry to Nick Cave’s music was the Murder Ballads album, specifically the duet with Kylie Minogue, Where the Wild Roses Grow. By its very name, it is clearly an album chocker block with narrative songs. I love a song with a narrative. My first loves were songs like Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree and Scarlet Ribbons. So when Nick Cave says in his book/elongated interview with Sean O’Hagan that he is interested in the ‘disrupted narrative’, he has my attention. The conversations between O’Hagan and Cave occurred at the outset of the COVID pandemic and Cave talks about the feeling of ‘end times’ and how what we assume is the story of our lives can at any point be torn apart. He says he has become suspicious of the structured story, ‘neat’ and ‘manicured’.

I can’t keep all the ideas in this book Faith, Hope and Carnage in my head. I found it both fascinating and illuminating. At the heart of the book, if I have to pin it down to one idea or theme, is Cave’s realisation of the universality of loss and the imperative to find the language to describe grief. His album Ghosteen is one of his creative expressions born of his grief after the sudden death of his son Arthur.

‘Perhaps grief can be seen as kind of an exalted state where the person who is greiving is the closest they will ever be to the fundamental essence of things. Because, in grief, you become deeply aquainted with idea of human mortality.’

Faith, Hope, and Carnage – Nick Cave

There is also much about the creative process. When Cave describes the physical sensation he gets when he writes an important line, I know what he means, the sense of knowing physically in your bones that something is right. He describes it as an ‘erotic enchantment’. Also, that difficult to describe the imaginal world that shimmers both real and not real. What I appreciated most, the thing I personally find most difficult is his way of abandoning himself to an idea – in an idea – for an idea. The risk-taking of his endeavours – the ability to be vulnerable and see if a thing will fail or succeed.

The hope and optimism Cave expresses are palpable despite the grief that has ruptured his life. By far my favourite thing he says is

‘…despite how debased and corrupt we are told humanity is, and how degraded the world has become, it just keeps on being beautiful. It can’t help it.’

Faith, Hope, and Carnage – Nick Cave

I know it. I see it every day.

Pocket Bookclub did enjoy this book. We seem to be on a non-fiction bent to start the year. Stay tuned to hear about the Australians who decided to set up a utopia in Paraguay. True Story.

We called our invented cuntail Sorrow and Solace.

The Pocket Bookclub raged against a book of literary cocktails that only included quotes from men. We embarked on a cunttail project, inventing a cunttail for every book we read in 2022. We made a literary cunttail book! What’s wrong with the word cunt? Nothing

Literary Cunttails 2022 is hand-drawn by Miriama and includes every recipe. Get a free copy.

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