The Death of Bunny Munro

Nick Cave

The Death of Bunny Munro
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The Death of Bunny Munro

Nick Cave

Bunny Munro sells beauty products to the lonely housewives of England’s south coast. Set adrift by his wife’s death, he hits the road one last time-with his young son in tow. As Bunny hawks his wares and feeds his libido, nine-year-old Bunny Junior waits in the car communing with his mother’s ghost and watching his father self-destruct. Haunted by jealous husbands, his own appetite and a serial killer in a Satan suit, Bunny Munro is a desperate man. And he’s going to die. Darkly comic and raw with heartache, The Death of Bunny Munro is a spellbinding story of one-man’s battle with fatherhood, love and redemption.

Review

Given that his first novel And the Ass Saw the Angel was published 20 years ago, you could be forgiven for thinking that Nick Cave has perhaps been taking it easy. Of course, this would mean ignoring the 12 or so albums he has created in that time. In fact, one thing you can’t question about Cave is his work ethic. Just the last couple of years have seen him produce an album with his new band Grinderman, a film script in The Proposition, the film’s soundtrack, and soundtracks to the films The Assassination of Jesse James and the forthcoming The Road.

Strangely though, Cave’s comparatively meagre literary output serves quite well to bookend his artistic progression over this time. And the Ass Saw the Angel, which was full of God-fearing Americana and desolate desperation, neatly reflects his early recorded work such as The Firstborn is Dead and Your Funeral…My Trial. Since then, however, Cave has undergone a dramatic artistic re-invention. With the records Grinderman and Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, his music has taken a debauched, lecherous and wild turn, and from these new roots springs The Death of Bunny Munro.

Bunny Munro is a cosmetics salesman and unabashed lothario. When his tale begins, we catch him happily indulging his insatiable libido with a casual disregard for his wife and young son. However, Bunny, for reasons he can’t fathom, has recently become aware of his own mortality, and as this cloud starts to grow above him, his life is thrown into turmoil by his wife’s sudden passing. Shell-shocked and unable to cope with her ghost in the house, he takes to the road with his son, Bunny Junior, in tow.

What follows is a slowly accelerating descent into depravity as Bunny attempts to escape his wife’s memory and his own sense of impending doom. Unfortunately, despite some initial success, his therapeutic vices of women and alcohol soon turn on him, and his pathological pursuit of flesh and unyielding anxieties invariably lead him towards his ultimate downfall.

By its conclusion, Cave’s book is breathless; his words hit the page in rapid fire as his protagonist sprints to his own demise. However, the book is also filled with an outrageous irreverence that manifests itself in ways that range from comical to grotesque to unashamedly offensive. This sly humour has always been a hallmark of Cave’s writing and, like his disgustingly charming anti-hero, he is able to be brash, disturbing and even horribly vulgar, but get away with it with a quick wink or twitch of the fabled moustache. Despite all the carnage, there is a strange sense of hope, as parallel to Bunny’s disintegration runs the coming-of-age of Bunny Junior.

Given Cave’s iconic status, The Death of Bunny Munro will invariably be a hit, but like all his recent and varied endeavours, this success will primarily be due to Cave’s talents as a writer and the quality of his work. With its themes of depravity and redemption, The Death of Bunny Munro bears a passing resemblance to the 2003 Booker Prize winner Vernon God Little and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if it had similar success.

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