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Music as muse : excerpt of Earworm, a novel, plus an accompanying exegesis : "Will Bunny stay dead? : The unreconstructed male in Grinderman and The Death of Bunny Munro"


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Varney, CM 2015 , 'Music as muse : excerpt of Earworm, a novel, plus an accompanying exegesis : "Will Bunny stay dead? : The unreconstructed male in Grinderman and The Death of Bunny Munro"', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis consists of an excerpt of a novel, Earworm, plus an accompanying
exegesis, “Will Bunny Stay Dead?: the Unreconstructed Male in Grinderman and
The Death of Bunny Munro.”
Earworm is a novel narrated by a pop tune. The fictional love song, “Empty
Fairground,” echoes within the consciousnesses of several characters, either
skulking in the back of the mind or pushing to the forefront of thought. It connects
readily with the memories and fantasies of its “hosts.” The more meaning each
person associates with the song, the greater the hold it has within their mind. The
novel explores the way that pop culture affects us, fusing inextricably with our
reminiscences and giving voice to attitudes and identity. It plays with the
relationships between language and music, with the prose often reading like lyrics.
Musical terms and imagery abound.
Earworm Synopsis:
The novel divides into five “tracks.” The first two introduce Nicole, a twenty-two
year old student in Hobart who believes she was conceived while the hit “Empty
Fairground” was playing. When Nicole discovers her recently deceased father was
not her biological parent she undergoes a crisis of identity and begins to hate the
tune that she had previously adored. Track Three concerns Spencer, an academic
living in Adelaide and Nicole’s unwitting biological father. Lingering in a
passionless marriage strained by the grief of a stillborn daughter, Spencer uses the
song to revive memories of the affair he had with Nicole’s mother in a distant
Tasmanian summer. Spencer is drawn to Marla, one of his students. Track Four
draws the two main characters closer as Nicole spies on Spencer in Adelaide while
trying to brace herself for an encounter. She hopes that Spencer will provide clues to
her own identity. Spencer, meanwhile, is tempted by infidelity. Nicole plans to
overdose at a reunion concert by JayJay, the band that wrote and recorded “Empty
Fairground.” She will die to the same tune that accompanied her conception. At the
same concert, Spencer prepares to end his marriage via a phone call. The narrator
yearns to protect Nicole and prevent Spencer’s folly, yet cannot inject direct
thoughts into its hosts. Can the song that exists in their heads juggle fantasies and recollections effectively enough to save a marriage – and a life? The final “hidden” track presents an epilogue.
The excerpt of Earworm presented for assessment comes from the beginning
of Track Three. It introduces Spencer and his wife, Vivienne. Spencer rediscovers
“Empty Fairground” and indulges in memories of his youthful fling. He is attracted
to Marla, who is trying to conclude a relationship with the unstable Griff. It presents
a new side of our storyteller as the narrator is intoxicated by the speed metal cover of
itself that roars in Marla’s mind.
Please note: in order to maintain consistency with citations within the
exegesis, the page numbering of the Earworm excerpt retains the pagination of the
novel manuscript.
Exegesis: “Will Bunny Stay Dead?: the Unreconstructed Male in Grinderman and
The Death of Bunny Munro”
In developing the voice of the narrator of Earworm I have attempted to steep the
prose in musical allusion. It was therefore instructive to explore connections
between literature and music in the accompanying exegesis. I elected to examine
two side projects in the artistic trajectory of Nick Cave: the novel The Death of
Bunny Munro (2009) and the eponymous debut album by Cave’s offshoot band
Grinderman. Cave is primarily a songwriter and musician but has also written
novels, short stories, plays and screenplays. He is an intriguing candidate for a study
of the ways in which literature and music interrelate. Moreover, Cave considers
himself a narrative songwriter (Buck). The two projects chosen share themes,
language and a sense of humour that is broader than Cave’s usual mordant wit. Both
projects feature manifestations of the “unreconstructed male” and a study of Cave’s
attitude to this stereotype provides insight into the ways in which song and story
The exegesis also demonstrates how The Death of Bunny Munro was
informed by Cave’s longstanding work with his main band, Nick Cave and the Bad
Seeds. This in turn shines a light on the musical influences that construct the
narrator’s diction and syntax in Earworm. Cave, perhaps to the surprise of many
who consider him bleak and menacing, considers himself to be first and foremost a
creator of love songs (Cave "Secret" 1). This dovetails neatly with my narrator who
is proud to be a love song, and who allows ready identification with the genre to colour its interpretations of the machinations, emotions and complexities of the
humans whose minds it inhabits.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Varney, CM
Keywords: Fiction, Music, Earworm, Unreconstructed males, Nick Cave
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2015 the author

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