“An origin story to rival that of a superhero” – Nick Cave: Mercy on Me by Richard Kleist

As if Nick Cave wasn’t already enough of a mythical/legendary character, along comes Richard Kleist to give him an origin story to rival that of a superhero. Mixing fact with fiction, mundane trivialities with myriad mysteries, and real life contributors to the work of Nick Cave with 3D versions of the characters from his novels and songs, Kleist gives us an all-encompassing biography of a singer who has long defied narrative structure. Add to this already intriguing mix the fact that this is a beautifully presented graphic biography, and it should become clear that this is a must own object for fans of Mr Cave.

Working out what’s happening might take you a while, as the story flits between the past and present, the real and imagined, the misrepresentation and the unarguable fact. But as you persevere, this becomes the most enjoyable element of the work. There is no attempt to define who these mysterious characters in the story are, but when you realise that you are in Cave’s imagination – alongside the many characters he has created – it becomes a thrilling and unsettling place to reside.

Kleist does more with imagery and the odd speech bubble than many biographers have done with 500 pages. Because, when an artist is an indefinable as the subject here, what else is he than the works he has created? Cave’s art is so central to who he is that any attempt to write his life story without making it the main element would be a failure. Kleist might be the first biographer to realise this.

Any Cop?: This ambitious and difficult work might only be for the most ardent fans of the singer it portrays. There are sections that would seem almost ineligible to those who barely know him. But if you consider yourself a Cave convert, if you’ve spent time among his worlds and his characters, this will be a very rewarding read indeed.

 

Fran Slater

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