The Straub Connection

Nick draws from writer Peter Straub

Nick is well known for his voracious appetite when it comes to books. Here you can find a collection of various messages (private, and public) about Peter Straub and Nick's references to Straub's work. Two of Nick's songs that use imagery from Straub's work are Do You Love Me (Part 2) and The Curse of Millhaven. DYLM(P2) draws on Straub's short story, The Juniper Tree which can be found in the Houses Without Doors collection. "Curse" uses the the fictional town of Millhaven which sprang from the mind of Straub and came out on paper in his books regarding "The Blue Rose Murders". In particular the novel The Throat has been recommended by Nick.

For more information regarding Peter Straub's work, visit his web site or drop in on the Usenet newsgroup.

From the Introduction to The Throat:

Peter's a nice enough kind of guy, and he lives in a big grey Victorian house in Connecticut, just off Long Island Sound. He has a wife and two kids, and he doesn't get out much. Peter's office on the third floor of his house was the size of my whole loft on Grand Street, and his air conditioning and his sound system always worked.

Peter liked listening to my descriptions of Millhaven. He was fascinated with the place. He understood exactly how I felt about it. "In Millhaven, snow falls in the middle of summer," I'd say, "sometimes in Millhaven, flights of angels blot out the whole sky," and he'd beam at me for about a minute and a half. Here are some other things I told him about Millhaven: once, on the near south side of town, a band of children killed a stranger, dismembered him, and buried the pieces of his body beneath a juniper tree, and later the divided and buried parts of the his body began to call out to each other; once a rich old man raped his daughter and kept her imprisoned in a room where she raved and drank, raved and drank, without ever remembering what had happened to her; once the pieces of the murdered man buried beneath the juniper tree called out and caused the children to bring them together; once a dead man was wrongly accused of terrible crimes. And once, when the parts of the dismembered man were brought together at the foot of the tree, the whole man rose and spoke, alive again, restored.


Subj:Re: Origins
Date:Feb and Apr, 1995
From:Lisa Ronthal

Do You Love Me (Part 2) is drawn from the Peter Straub short story "The Juniper Tree," which I read after Nick recommended it to me. Bits of interest from this story about a boy being molested in a movie theater showing old films include, but are not limited to: reference to film star Berry Kroeger's "sneaky eyes, girlish and watchful"; to change in the kid's pockets; bits of prose, not dialogue, consisting of "I love you." and "I love you, yes, I do." isolated on the page, the abuser saying "Don't I love you?... And you love me too, don't you?... Don't I show you, can't I tell you that I love you? ... Don't you, can't you, love me too?" and "Love me, love me" coming from radios and comic books and nightmares; "girlish, watchful eyes" again; lots about love, memory, and death.

...I was in the taxicab with Nick in Lausanne he had Straub's novel "The Throat," I asked what it was and he showed me, saying it was about child abuse, then told me about this story "The Juniper Tree," saying it was also about child abuse. When I read it later it contained a molestation scene at a movie theater during "King Kong" and specific phrases like "vanilla breath" and "girlish eyes" and so forth.

I was relieved, actually, that this one's source was apparently purely literary. :) I hadn't quite known what to say in the taxicab because "DYLM 2" was all I could think of. But clearly that song has a great deal of original matter added from the same wellsprings as the rest of the album-- bracelets and jingle jangle and all that.



Subj:Straub on DYLMP2
Date:Nov, 1996
From:Peter Straub

Lisa Rontal's comments were forwarded to Peter Straub, who very kindly replied.

Well, this is interesting! Pleasing, too, of course. However, I've never heard the song and in fact have until now remained only dimly aware of Nick Cave, though I have at least heard of him, so I am incapable of offering any comments about his use of my story. All I can say is that I'm delighted that he was moved enough by the story to have used it in his music. That's extraordinary, also very, very satisfying. I feel honored.

Nick Cave obviously likes my work and finds that it speaks to him. From my point of view, it's delightful to read that he took The Throat along for a cab ride in Lausanne. And of course, some lines of the song in question are clearly derived from my story, though the phrases drawn from me are entirely absorbed into the context. Artists of all kinds borrow from other artists, that's part of how it works, and if Nick Cave reads a lot of fiction, as he evidently does, some of the fiction that affects him most is likely, sooner or later, to pop up in his work. If he's also drawn on Faulkner, I'm in good company. I think anybody with any sense would be flattered to find themselves incorporated into this process. It's wonderful to be appreciated in the first place, and to be used, adapted, transformed in a song is even better.

All Best,

Peter Straub's comments were forwarded to someone who showed them to NC. Cave said something like "There are too many trainspotters these days. I can't do anything without them finding out where I took it from", when he read it. Regarding Straub's comments he'd said something like "How generous of him".


Subj:Straub and the Curse of Millhaven
Date:Dec, 1995
From:Michael J Collins

The experience itself may be an autobiographical one, since (psychologically speaking) a lot of Cave's darkness and rage that goes into his songs and writings is consistent with the emotional damage inflicted by molestation... but the song itself is based in large part upon Peter Straub's beautiful, wrenching, tragic story THE JUNIPER TREE, which appeared in a couple of anthologies, the easiest of which to find is his short story collection HOUSES WITHOUT DOORS.

Straub had the misfortune to grow up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city I too had the bad judgment to inhabit for four increasingly horrible years (I moved one week after the arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer). Milwaukee appears in a lot of his fiction, frequently under the name of Millhaven (and I'm betting that Cave's song on the Murder Ballads album called "The Curse of Millhaven" is a direct reference to the haunted, evil city Straub writes about).



Subj:The Curse Of Millhaven
Date:Jan, 1997
From:Peter Straub

The above message was forwarded to Peter Straub, who again replied:

Millhaven is indeed the locale of many of my fictions (although it's not always called by that name, and is in any case based on Milwaukee). I'm delighted that Nick Cave finds his own feelings and imaginative impulses so echoed in my work that he wishes to draw on it so specifically. In "The Curse of Millhaven," he used the name of my imaginary city chiefly as a locus for his own narrative invention, which is happily at home there. As before, I am nothing but delighted by his adaptations of my work.

Cave seemed more than a little disgruntled to hear that I had been informed of his treatment, if that's the word, of "The Juniper Tree," and I suppose I can't blame him. He's very busy doing what he's doing, and he hardly needs the exposure to various sorts of difficulty this kind of thing might represent - but he has no worries where I am concerned. I'm on his side, how could I not be, since he is so evidently on mine? Please post this message to the Cave newsgroup, and I hope he will come across it. He should know that I am completely charmed by these indications of his affection for my work. And who knows: maybe he'll send me a signed CD. I'd be happy to send him an inscribed book, if he'd like one.

Peter Straub


Subj:Re: Nick Cave and Straub
Date:Feb, 1997
From:Peter Straub

Peter Straub's comments on The Curse of Millhaven were forwarded to someone who showed them to NCs manager, who showed them to NC. NC indeed did sent a signed CD to Peter Straub.

A member of a discussion group devoted to Cave's work told me about this earlier in the year, and I wrote back indicating my pleasure in having given some one else inspiration. The second time this happened, Cave sent me a CD signed "To MR. STRAUB, with love and thanks." How Goth is that? Pretty nice, anyhow.



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