Reviews > Published on November 7th, 2016

Bookshots: "The Sick Bag Song" by Nick Cave

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The Sick Bag Song

Who Wrote It:

Legendary Australian singer Nick Cave, of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Plot in a Box:

While the stray ideas and pieces of prose are as intriguing on their own as his music, it's best experienced alongside Cave's other work.

The Sick Bag Song was written on airline sick bags during Cave's 2014 Push the Sky Away album tour through North America. It evolved into a full volume over the course of his travels.

Invent a new title for this book:

It seems silly to alter the title of a book that has such a specific meaning.

Read this if you like(d):

Hunter S. Thompson and 20,000 Days On Earth, the documentary that Cave produced to accompany his latest album, Skeleton Tree.

Meet the book's lead(s):

A scattered retelling of his tour and pieces of his life, The Sick Bag Song is an intimate investigation into various highlights in Cave's career as an artist.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Cave himself would probably play a form of exaggerated version of himself. The movie would be directed by John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless) since Cave has done the score for all of his movies.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Despite the changing outward setting, the book is truly set in the musician's mind as he continues his tour. Would I want to live in Nick Cave's mind? Probably not, but I don't really think he does either.

What was your favorite sentence?

The boy does not realise that he is not a boy at all, but rather the memory of a boy.

The Verdict:

The Sick Bag Song, as the names teases, is a book of poetry that includes dozens of full-color images of barf bags collected throughout the author's travels. Like the recently produced documentary, 20,000 Days On Earth, the poetic scribbles are an intimate behind-the-scenes view of Cave's life, including larger themes as well as smaller events encountered during his life on the road.

Whether or not The Sick Bag Song is a book that you should buy really boils down to a single question: Do you enjoy the music of Nick Cave? Because the fact that these thoughts are written out on airline bags doesn't change the fact that they are irrefutably Cave's thoughts.

While the stray ideas and pieces of prose are as intriguing on their own as his music, it's best experienced alongside Cave's other work, particularly the film, which details Cave's creative process as well as how it intertwines with grief for his son, Arthur, who died after falling off a cliff in 2015. Like much of Cave's works, the poems are elusive; a darting glimpse into the complex universe that is the mind of Nick Cave. 

Get The Sick Bag Song at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Leah Dearborn is a Boston-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations from UMass Boston. She started writing for LitReactor in 2013 while paying her way through journalism school and hopping between bookstore jobs (R.I.P. Borders). In the years since, she’s written articles about everything from colonial poisoning plots to city council plans for using owls as pest control. If it’s a little strange, she’s probably interested.

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