If there is one man in the rock-snob canon who can rattle off a series of filthy expletives without sounding anything less than utterly eloquent and polite, it is Nick Cave.
On the evening of Monday, Sept. 14, the 51-year-old Mr. Cave, best known for his role as the sinister singer-songwriter of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, was sitting crossed-legged on a small stage on the fourth floor of the Union Square Barnes & Noble, doing an interview with the journalist Katherine Lanpher—former sidekick to Al Franken on Air America Radio. He had come to read from his new novel, The Death of Bunny Munro ($25, Faber and Faber), which tells the dark and deranged tale of an insatiably horny traveling cosmetics salesman in the south of England who, following his wife’s suicide, takes his 9-year-old son out on the road.
The rail-thin Mr. Cave, dressed in a black pinstriped suit over a light blue-check dress shirt, narrated one of the protagonist’s drunken sexual episodes aloud to the assembled hundreds in a distinguished Australian brogue. “This is a scene where he’s fucking her, uh, but he’s not really into it,” he said, eliciting some nervous chuckles.
“I think it took me 20 years to work out the idea that it didn’t have to be life-threatening to write a novel,” said Mr. Cave a few minutes later. His first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, was published in 1989. He wrote The Death of Bunny Munro over the course of six weeks while on tour last year with the Bad Seeds. “This was easy,” he said. “I really breezed through it.”
“Old Testament or New Testament?” Ms. Lanpher asked Mr. Cave, whose songs are laden with biblical references.
“God. Is that what you say to guys in bars?” he teased, as the crowd erupted in laughter.
Afterward, Mr. Cave walked over to a long wooden table on the left-hand side of the room as fans lined up for autographs, snaking around the stacks.
“Now that’s a good mustache,” he said, pointing at a bearish fellow’s handlebar. (Though clean-shaven on this occasion, Mr. Cave had until recently been sporting a similar facial hair pattern.)
Had he been enjoying his stay in our recession-gripped, swine-flu-infested city, the starstruck Transom asked, offering forth our book?
“I’ve been having a ball!” Mr. Cave replied.