Things getting better with age is an age-old cliché that rarely holds true for anything beyond the obvious "fine wine" analogy, but we can safely add "Nick Cave's career" to that short list.
His creative roll continues apace with the publication of his second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro and White Lunar a double-CD collection of some of his film soundtrack work with fellow Bad Seed Warren Ellis.
Much like Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the fate of protagonist Bunny Munro is never in question in Cave's new novel. With that major plot point given away in the title, Bunny is all about character development and Bunny Munro, a sex-obsessed traveling salesman-cum-lothario, is quite a character. An anti-hero by turns despicable and oddly compelling, he hits the road, as usual, after his wife's suicide, but this time with son Bunny Jr. in tow and the father/son dynamic is explored at length as Bunny Sr. wends his way toward his inevitable end.
While Cave's first novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel from 1989, was set in the Southern Gothic-era deep south of America, Bunny is set in the present-day south of England, where Cave resides, lending its descriptions of time and place more immediacy than the mythologized landscape of his literary debut.
The 20 years between novels have undoubtedly changed Cave's perspective on life and that is mirrored in the ages and circumstances of their protagonists. Euchrid Eucrow of And The Ass is a young man lashing out at his fate and its injustices, while Bunny Munro is a middle-aged man being lashed by fate, perhaps for his own injustices.
Fans of Cave's music have long noted the narrative slant of his lyrics and his use of humor, black and otherwise. Those qualities are in full flower in the new novel, making it a vastly enjoyable, if not quite excellent read. Check out clips of Cave reading from his work here.
Cave and Bad Seed violinist/multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis also composed a soundtrack to accompany Cave's reading of the audio book. Meanwhile, strong samplings of the pair's film soundtrack collaborations are gathered on the double disc set White Lunar.
Disc one features music from two Westerns -- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (in which Cave appears briefly) and the brutally powerful Australian-set The Proposition, for which Cave also wrote the screenplay -- and the forthcoming film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, set for release next month. Cave and Ellis conjure ambient atmospherics with simple piano figures and strings that mesh beautifully with the imagery of the first two films (and presumably will with the third) and also stand up on their own. The selections hang together quite well as a downbeat instrumental album (there are very brief vocals), by turns hopeful and haunting.
Disc two falls a bit short, but Cave and Ellis acknowledge as much on the packaging's back cover, noting "the second CD is fractured... and sometimes badly behaved." It contains music from the The Girls of Phnom Penh and the documentary The English Surgeon, along with four compositions from the composers "vaults." Like disc one, it's a mostly downbeat affair and while not as strong, is still a compelling listen.
The Death of Bunny Munro and White Lunar are both available now.