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Immortality on his mind

A reductive study of the young Nick Cave
by
January–February 2021, no. 428
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Boy on Fire: The young Nick Cave by Mark Mordue

Fourth Estate, $39.99 hb, 431 pp

Immortality on his mind

A reductive study of the young Nick Cave
by
January–February 2021, no. 428

At one point in Boy on Fire, music critic Mark Mordue’s strange, hybrid biography and social history of the early years and musical development of singer–songwriter Nick Cave, Mordue describes his subject as ‘the nominal ship’s captain, a drug-spun Ahab running amok on stage and off’. It is a typically sharp image, but it may reveal more than was intended; for all that Cave is Mordue’s Ahab, he is far more like the white whale itself: a great and receding mythical creature that will swallow the world before giving up any of its secrets. For a long while, the reader is cajoled into thinking this work might be the first in an exhaustive series on the artist, but by the end the truth is revealed: the subject simply got the better of his biographer, who languishes still in the belly of the whale. After an unnaturally long gestation, it seems to have become a case of publish or go mad.

Tim Byrne reviews 'Boy on Fire: The young Nick Cave' by Mark Mordue

Boy on Fire: The young Nick Cave

by Mark Mordue

Fourth Estate, $39.99 hb, 431 pp

Buy this book

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