The Death Of Bunny Munro
by Nick Cave
When I reviewed the last album from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds I explained my Damascene conversion to his talents. Having once thought he was a bit rubbish I confessed that I thought he wrote 'some of the best lyrics going, real storytelling through song, and a wicked sense of humour running through it all.' Then I saw that he was publishing a novel, not even his first (And the Ass Saw the Angelwas published over 20 years ago), and couldn't help but wonder if those qualities could be sustained in that much larger format.
Bunny Munro is not in a good way. 'I am damned' he thinks in the opening sentence of the book and he very much is. Swigging miniatures in a hotel room as he talks to his depressive wife on the phone he cuts a pretty sad figure, even more so when it becomes clear that whilst he claims to be miles away and thus incapable of getting home to her he is actually in the same town and entertaining a prostitute in his room. It is a rude awakening the following day when he finally makes it home only to discover that his wife has committed suicide. Now with full responsibility for his son, Bunny Jr, he decides to do what he does best which is get on the road and sell, for Bunny is a salesman of beauty products.
'I learned the trade with my old man, out on the streets, you know, the front line ...He had a gift my old man, the talent, and he taught me the art - how to be a people person. That's what we are doing, Bunny Boy. You may not be able to see it right now, but I am handing down the talent to you.'
The talent isn't about selling the various creams and lotions though, it's about selling 'the dream', and when pressed by his son to reveal what the dream is he has to come clean and admit that it's 'me'. This book and indeed the rest of this review might be best avoided if you balk at the idea of reading the exploits of a renowned pussy-hound. The opening section of the book is entitled Cocksman and Bunny's talents seem to extend into this area too. The regularity of his copulation, particularly once he's on the road, means that at times this reads like the fiction equivalent of those 'Confessions...' films starring Robin Askwith. Don't worry though, this is Nick Cave and the tone is much darker than those sex-comedies. The combination of alcohol and grief makes Bunny a pretty unreliable narrator and the book gets stronger and stronger as it veers away from the vaginal obsessions of Bunny (Avril Lavigne and Kylie Minogue both feature prominently and receive apologies in the acknowledgements section) and into a hallucinatory and genuinely disturbing journey into a dark heart.
Bunny Jr initially feels like a bit of a cipher; a smart kid who carries around his encyclopaedia, working his way through to enlightenment; but his love for and devotion to his father is genuinely touching. In spite of how badly he is neglected he cannot get angry or help himself admiring this man who continues to amaze him with his achievements (like putting an entire sausage in his mouth at breakfast - awe-inspiring). There is a website to promote the book which includes footage of Cave himself reading passages and they give you an even better idea of the tone. It's rude, lewd and you might even be able to see his actual tongue in his cheek. For the first half or so this is entertaining but was beginning to get a bit ho-hum, the slightly more adventurous final third makes a big difference, edging it into far more interesting territory.