The Sick Bag Song By Nick Cave - book review: A page-turning mash-up from the prince of darkness

His publishers reckon he's pulled off something that's "somewhere between The Waste Land and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", which may be a claim too far

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The Independent Culture

Nick Cave is the peerless Prince of Musical Darkness. Marilyn Manson doesn't even come close. And as you'd expect from a man who was once seen on a train writing in blood he'd just taken from his own arm, this is a tour diary with a difference.

Cave began his scrawled and doodled entries for each leg of last year's jaunt round North America on airline sick bags, as you do, then expanded each one into a full-blown despatch from the dark side. If you're so inclined, you can go to a dedicated website and cough up £750 for a limited-edition copy (sick bag included, presumably empty). Cynics will scoff.

He leaves himself open to scoffing when he tells us: "The Sick Bag Song is the leavings… the scrapings… the shavings…" But he does himself a disservice: he's written an epic chronicle of a journey round the New World, a page-turning mash-up of poetry and prose, fantasy, reportage and autobiography.

The fantasy I can do without – there's a bit of nonsense about a small dragon he briefly adopts that could go. But Caveheads will love the book, though a reader coming to it cold, who perhaps finds his music melodramatic and depressing, may find it all more of the same.

With successful novels and screenplays under his belt, not to mention some of the finest lyrics in rock music, Cave can certainly write: there's a nice description of Detroit seen from the air, "a severed head, incinerated and discarded by the side of the river; its cavernous eye sockets are empty, bundles of dead nerves dangle from its neck, its shattered mouth gapes, a few desolate wires hang from its stark, scorched skull…", but paradoxically the sight fills his heart with hope.

His publishers reckon he's pulled off something that's "somewhere between The Waste Land and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", which may be a claim too far. But it's everything you'd expect from a man who once told the Vienna Poetry Academy that his songs are "lifelines thrown into the galaxies by a drowning man".

There's a sad little story about a visit he and his wife paid to Lucy Ferry, former wife of Bryan, at their country pile. Bryan wasn't there, but Cave fell asleep by the pool, then awoke to find him standing in the water. "I haven't written a song in years," was Ferry's conversational opener. "Why, what's wrong with you?" Cave asked him.

"He gestured, with an uncertain hand, all about him. 'There is nothing to write about,' he said." I think we can rest assured that however rich he were to become, however big his mansion might be, that would never happen to Nick Cave.

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