by Nick Cave
278 pages, Canongate
Review by Marc Nash
Nick Cave is a supreme story-teller; witness his narratives in songs such as "Box For Black Paul" or "The Mercy Seat". His debut novel "And The Ass Saw The Angel" was very much in the overblown, Biblical meets Deep South style of some of his songs. But Bunny Munro? I honestly can't see this even being published if it's not got a famous counter-cultural name on the spine and all the video-music crossover attendant on its launch.
Bunny Munro, travelling priapic salesman of women's beauty products, just can't help himself sampling the customers. His constant infidelity pushes his wife to suicide and yet he still seeks solace between alien bedsheets. Only there does seem to be some guilt tugging at the fringes of his conscience, for she seems to be haunting his performances.
And other than an underwritten relationship with his introverted nine year son, (this ain't no "The Road") that is the whole book. There is no motion, ironic seeing as it's a road trip, throughout the book. There is a downward spiral, but the spirals retrace each coil. Bunny's analysis often offers two or more possibilities and then appends the words "or something"; "the musician looks at Bunny with an expression of concern or sympathy or something". And herein lies a problem, Bunny has minimal self-insight, the son isn't going to lend it such is his unconditional devotion, so there is very little development for the reader to glean.
There seems to be no logic between when Bunny is overcome by phantoms and concomitant madness affecting his swordsmanship and when he is able to shake it off and revivify his flailing spirits. Some of the scenarios the former ignites drift off into unsatisfying denouements. It's all a bit of a mess. Some of the writing displays the swagger one expects from Cave, a baby's face is described as being like "claymation", a portion of chips cupped in a cone is borne aloft by Bunny Junior "like he was the Statue of Liberty or an Olympic Torch Bearer" (like father, like son with two or more alternative metaphors where one would suffice.
There are plenty of rakes throughout literature. Some endearing, some not. What is remarkable about Bunny Munro is that it has no echoes with any of its literary predecessors. It seems to stand outside of literary history, but not in a good, vanguard sort of way. Why is Bunny so priapic? He enters the novel thus and remains at the heightened state of tumescence. I'm afraid it just gets tediously repetitive. As much as the shtick Bunny employs on his lonely female customers.
I haven't seen or heard the audio-visual accompaniments to this release. Would they change (rather than enhance) my enjoyment of The Death of Bunny Munro? They'd have to go a heck of a long way to bring me round to liking this book.