Down by the River: Nick Cave’s boyhood in Wangaratta (1959-70)

Here is a chapter from my long awaited biography, Tender Prey: The Life and Times of Nick Cave, a work-in-progress that’s been derailed and locked down by all kinds of problems: personal, professional and legal. 

Am hoping to see some of the work I have done emerge next year in a volume that may interest further, but life (and writing about a life) is not so easy or straight forward, I’ve discovered. Especially when reflecting on someone as big and complex as Nick. 

In any case, I do hope people enjoy this – and that they get a vision into some of the work I have put in that has been locked in a vault and long in need of finding its way into the light outside. 

Am very pleased the leading Australian literary journal, Sydney Review of Books has seen fit to publish what’s here. And that there may be interest from other publishers in a book project that deals more exclusively in Nick’s youth and the culture that formed him. Effectively, an Australian tale of an artist’s becoming.

With regard to this particular extract/chapter, ‘Down by the River’, it focuses on Nick’s upbringing in Wangaratta and its influence upon him.

To quote Nick himself:

“One of the many things I regret about writing And the Ass Saw the Angel (1989) was that I didn’t set it in Australia. It could just as easily be set in Wangaratta rather than an imaginary part of the American South. I don’t know why I didn’t do that. I wish I had. For sure that book comes from growing up in the country, from living a life in country Australia. It’s not from listening to murder ballads. The river was the sacred place of my childhood and everything happened down there….”

You can read ‘Down by the River: Nick Cave’s boyhood in Wangaratta (1959-70)’ here at Sydney Review of Books.

Mark Mordue