on 10 December 2009
For me this is a good example of why, as a genre, the novel trumps the movie every time. However good a film is it only very rarely effectively captures and exposes the mental processes of its characters. I am pretty sure that if this book becomes a film I won't like it. It will necessarily be extremely violent and unpleasant. Bunny's aggressive philandering and infantile self-absorption will be horrible, possibly unbearable, to watch. And yet, as a book this story of a tragically messed-up man, whose many sins make his destruction inevitable, really works. Cave is able to explore and expose Bunny's deeply damaged psyche and warped thought processes by presenting the narrative primarily from his off-kilter perspective. The language of Bunny's inner world is always foul and usually hopelessly muddled by the consumption of far too much alcohol and yet it reveals that he is somewhere deep down, fundamentally human with his own unique set of anxieties and challenges. Cave reveals this carefully and ably using a mind boggling array of unusual but always creative similes and metaphors. He also manages, perhaps his best achievement of all, to get inside the head of a nine year old boy who witnesses far, far more than he should at his young age and yet somehow still manages to hang on to his wide-eyed naivety and unconditional love for his unworthy father.
The story is a simple one and one that has been told many times before. Like Don Giovanni, Bunny has sinned and must pay for his sins. Slowly but inexorably he staggers woozily towards his doom heralded by horrific visions, apocalyptic weather and finally the arrival of Beelzebub himself. Yet despite the fact that the reader knows full well what will happen Cave manages to make the story engaging to the end. The horror is relentless but still you feel compelled to follow Bunny to his grisly end.
After a hiatus of 20 years, The Death of Bunny Munro is Nick Cave's second novel. From the first page, Cave very effectively puts us inside the depraved mind of Bunny Munro, a middle-aged salesman of beauty products. He confirms for us that some men are thinking non-stop about sex, no matter how appropriate it may (or may not) be. This makes for some very black humour. As we follow Bunny through a death, a funeral and a road trip, we may well wonder, how did he get to be this way? Perhaps Cave is making a commentary on the power of charisma. Bunny's charisma has everyone elevating him to hero status: the friends who think he's great; his female customers who open their cheque books (and often their legs) for him; his wife, who stays despite his infidelity; his intelligent but impressionable 9-year-old son, who puts his father on a high pedestal indeed; and even himself, justifying his wanton behaviour, believing he still has "it".
Cave is a master of description: "He feels like the flensed blubber a butcher may trim from a choice fillet of prime English beef.....". The novel is full of rich imagery, some of it delightful, some grotesque. A novel with humour, horror, heartache, haunting and humanity. The author's cameo in Bunny Munro's death scene is a cute touch. We are left wondering if his son will survive his influence. Comedy and tragedy both, this is a powerful read.
Celebrity novelists are often easy to mock; one always has a suspicion that their work might not have been published had they not been famous. Usually that's a question of quality.
In the case of The Death Of Bunny Munro, the real issue is probably the subject matter. Bunny Munro is not a rabbit, he's a sex maniac - though presumably the reader is supposed to see a parallel between Munro and the legendary proclivity of the rabbit to breed. This would have been an easy subject to address in a hamfisted way, but instead Nick Cave presents us with a dull man who has an empty, lonely life that is scarred by his insatiable appetite for sex. He even recognizes this; he recognizes the damage it did to his marriage to Libby; the damage it does to his relationships with those around him; the damage it probably does to his career. For all the sex, there seems to be no gratification. It is very matter of fact. And, as it turns out, not even with particularly attractive women. In a telling moment, Bunny Munro is discussing with colleagues who is a breast man and who is a leg man. Bunny declares that he is a vagina man. He's no interest in the person or in the foreplay - just the mechanical act.
The novel particularly focuses on the days immediately following Libby's death. It shows a very disturbing grief reaction as Bunny's life falls apart - the one anchor point in his life is removed and Bunny fails to deal with the situation. He is landed with Bunny Jr to look after; a job that seems to be little more than an entry card into Brighton bedrooms; and a complete inability to look after himself. The result is pitiable for the sake of Bunny, but deeply concerning for the wellbeing of Junior. He's pulled from school, pulled from the family home and expected to keep watch as Bunny goes off on his salesman's rounds. Junior is portrayed as malleable, scared and bewildered but constantly seeking approval from a father who is behaving unpredictably. At times, Junior seems trusting, at other times he seems helplessly terrified.
The reader's perception of Bunny, Junior and their relationship then undergoes a paradigm shift as Bunny Sr is introduced. This turns what might have been ordinary fare into something far more interesting. It offers some insight into who Bunny actually is; why he is like that; and perhaps even where Junior is heading.
If there is a lack in the novel, it is a clear understanding of whether Bunny behaves in quite such a despicable way all the time or whether his bad qualities have been magnified by grief. The sex, we understand, is constant. The other misdemeanours and transgressions seem somewhat out of character and, perhaps, not sustainable over time.
The language is plain, straightforward and deadpan. Not a million miles from a Nick Cave lyric. But for all that, it is a rich, deceptively complex novel which defies being read in long sessions. The plot, for all it is, will not linger long. It's the characterization that is the real strength of The Death Of Bunny Munro.
Bunny Munro is a travelling salesman of cheap beauty products. He makes his living hawking various potions around the doors of Brighton to lonely housewives. He is also a raging sexaholic. He uses his job as a method to work his way into the beds of his customers. He spends his time either having empty sex with anyone who will let him or thinking about having empty sex with anyone who will let him. He cruises Brighton in a bright yellow Punto leering out of his window or fantasising about Kylie Minogue's golden hot pants.
When his wife can take no more and commits suicide Bunny is left to bring up his son Bunny Jr. Unsure of what to do Bunny pulls the boy out of school and takes him on the road- ostensibly to learn the ropes, but increasingly to use as a support against his self destructive urges.
Nick Cave is renowned for his dark, dead pan world view and this book is no different. Bunny is not a nice man, he is in fact hugely unpleasant, but Cave makes him a compelling character. Reading this book is like slowing on a motorway to look at a car crash- you know it's not nice, you know you shouldn't really look, but you just can't help yourself.
Tortured by his wife's death Bunny begins to unravel and seems intent on dragging his son down with him. Bunny Jr idolises his father and wants to be just like him. As a reader you can only pray that he doesn't get his wish.
Lurid, graphic and gleefully horrible as it is, this book has at its centre a touching and poignant study of a father and son relationship. The redemptive power of familial love glows out through the foul language, debauchery and pornographic sex.
This isn't a book for the faint of heart. Cave pulls no punches and isn't afraid of visiting the darkest of places. That said, it is written with a restraint that wasn't evident in "And the Ass saw the Angel", the prodigious imagination is still there, but more focused this time round.
on 20 September 2009
The story of the end of Bunny Munro is a story about a dinosaur who has not realised that his species is extinct.
Bunny is really not a very nice person at all. It's not simply his antediluvian attitude towards women, but also his uncaring solipsism. Certainly, his son is caught in his orbit, but Bunny barely seems to notice him until towards the end. And, really, it's the ending that gives the book any meaning, and changes the bathos to pathos.
I don't know...it is well written, although some repeated phrases started to jar a little (the repetition of 'or something' after several metaphors). But I found it really hard to empathise with Bunny, to care in any way for this drunken lecher. After all, here is a man who, in the first few pages, drives his wife to suicide. Yet I plugged on with it and, when we meet Bunny's father, when we see Bunny Senior, Bunny and Bunny Junior, and we get some inkling of the motives of and background to Bunny's story, then maybe there is some sympathy. But the sympathy is for Bunny Junior; his father is clearly a lost cause.
In places, it reminded me of 'Bad Lieutenant'. Set in Brighton and the South Coast, the comparison still works, but the book is certainly no religious text, even given the hints of supernatural goings-on.
As a character study, it doesn't really have a great deal of depth. Bunny is simply thoroughly and pretty well two-dimensionally unpleasant. Bunny Junior is the only glimmer of light in this novel. In some ways, the Death of Bunny Munro may be the saving of Bunny Junior.
Still, it is a good read, but a bit disappointing overall. I'm not sure what I was hoping for, but if it hadn't been for Bunny's obsession with Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavinge, I'd have thought this was a 50s 'period piece'. As I said, Bunny is a dinosaur.
on 23 December 2009
Following his wife's suicide, cosmetics salesman and sex addict Bunny Monro takes to the road in his seagull-dropping covered car, together with his nine-year-old son, Bunny Junior. As we follow their tragic journey through Brighton's bleaker suburbs selling lotions and potions, we encounter pre-pubescent girls and giggling housewives, blind pensioners and erotically-dressed policewomen.
Having grown up with the Cavester's music and been a long admirer of his lyrics - many of which have stories at their heart - I had high expectations of The Death of Bunny Monro; being a Brightonian to boot meant the setting particularly appealed. And in many ways, there's much to relish. Contrary to other reviewers, I found Bunny not entirely unsympathetic: that we see him through his son's adoring eyes helps achieve this. There are clear areas where the novel works well: the father/son relationship is touching and convincing - as perspectives shift from man to boy, Cave inhabits both psyches with panache. The characters of Brighton's underclass are keenly observed; indeed the entire south coast setting is painted with a deft hand. But the whole is less than the sum of its parts, so the writing becomes repetitive and the tale protracted. The end is long foreshadowed and too easy to predict. My feeling is it would have been stronger for editing right down; the idea at its core seems too thin, more worthy of a short story or novella, and doesn't quite warrant a full blown novel.
on 25 January 2012
... to read this is like seeing a life through someone else's eyes. The life changing events that turn this from bad to worse make it heart wrentching, yet sickening with some of the very adult jokes through out. Sex crazed descriptions lead to the imagination of wondering what was meant by that inuendo?. The horror of having one of the worst things that can happen in a lifetime, and yet, showing little in the way of remorse or any mourneful state and nothing but where the next lay will come from.
At first there is little or no connection between father and son, but through time, tragedy and responcability, Bunny realises he has a son.
I found the first chapter hits you like a brick and you don't see it coming. It's all very fast and full of colour and description. Then the slow down of everything. The slowing of emotions, the speach and the actions. I honestly cried when i read the first few chapters and it made me relate to the characters. I could quite clearly see what was going on and how they felt while they sat on the sofa eatting pizza.
I would recommend this highly to anyone who wants something different to read. It's not a love story as such and it'll beat you black and blue with emotion, modern references and morallity. It's worth every penny paid and every minuet read.
What can I say, I cried reading this.
on 8 September 2010
Nick Cave novels are rare birds: his last, to my knowledge, was a mud-soaked piece of Southern Gothic depravity from 1989 called And the Ass Saw the Angel, in itself a brilliant, unhinged piece of writing and in its way a perfect companion piece for Cave's music which at that time was exploiting Leadbelly's romantic outlaw legacy and turning out albums' worth of excellent murder ballads, mined from Mississippi earth, and burnishing the reputations of collaborators as unusual as Polly Harvey and Kylie Minogue in doing so.
If it seemed odd that an Australian should be one of the most dogged and purist perpetuators of the American romantic tradition, that was only until you saw Cave's screenplay, The Proposition, which renders his scorched-earth Australia like tones and makes a case for a rival tradition.
So The (lonesome?) Death of Bunny Munro, as a title and yea, even unto about half way down the first page, sounded like it would follow the same furrow: a doomed travelling salesman - so much Arthur Miller - in a washed-up hotel room, in Brighton, eviscerating his distant wife.
But did you see the dissonance there? *Brighton*?
I flipped ahead, before purchasing, just to check this was in fact Brighton, Arkansas, or some other such remote, exotic and God-forsaken place. But no, this is good old Brighton, UK, present day. And Bunny Munro is no Willie Loman. And this is, aside from its wilful and exuberant sordidity, a very different sort of Nick Cave novel from his last one.
As a rock musician, Nick Cave is smarter than your average bear (not hard, admittedly: the playful and extensive vocabulary of his lyrics has always attested to that) and here, Cave's linguistic invention is always on top form. This novel is over written with great zeal: deliberately and enjoyably - a talented writer consciously using a technique for a particular end, as opposed to the more common over-reach of an amateur.
Though its content ranges from icky to downright repulsive, Cave's delivery is witty enough to make it always entertaining and frequently funny. Former collaborator Minogue again makes an appearance, but this time we laugh (gently) at Kylie's expense (literally, she is the butt of the joke), and Cave apologises to her in his afterword, and to Avril Lavigne, who fares far worse at Cave's hands than the Where Are They Now file she's currently inhabiting would say she was entitled to.
So, unless you have a profound respect for Avril Lavigne, form excellent. Not so convinced about the substance, however.
For one thing, Bunny Munro has no plot to speak of: it is a simple downhill slide into oblivion. I fancy Cave might see it as a tragedy (I can't for the life of me work out what other motivation he'd have), but a tragedy requires a flawed hero who refuses a path to redemption at his own cost. There's no such dynamic here. Bunny Munro has no redeeming features; he's irredeemable and (so sayeth the first words of the book), doomed. There's no moral to be heeded here.
Nor are other available characters used to their potential. A murderous sex fiend, dressed as a devil, rampages down the country drawing ever nearer to Brighton, in a clear metaphorical parallel. But, just when it might get interesting (is this Bunny's doppelganger? Is this Bunny's fate? Will they confront each other?) the devil figure drops out of the story.
Bunny's son, Bunny junior, has an eye condition which Bunny wilfully ignores despite the boy's gentle reminders - I guess something statically figurative about that - but the condition gets no worse over the course of the novel. Bunny is dogged by constant interaction with a particular fleet of well-named lorries, but short of making the obvious point that Bunny is destined to be a "Dudman", it isn't clear what the point of these was either.
Basically, this isn't a story, as such. It's an expiration; a ghastly but meaningless descent into oblivion which happens to be queasily enjoyable.
There is some significance to be drawn from the fact that Irvine Welsh, whose novels tend to be of a piece (Filth particularly), was impressed. If that sort of thing floats your boat (it doesn't mine) you might be also. Otherwise, outside Cave's core fan base, Bunny Munro is likely to be of passing interest only.
on 29 October 2014
Despite the very dark subject matter I found this to be an entertaining, lyrical, easy read. I was completely enthralled by this story of a self-immersed, self-loathing, sex-starved, vagina fixated, mentally shattered beauty products salesman, Bunny Munro. He smokes too much, drinks too much and helps out not one whit with the raising of his nine year old son Bunny Junior, who just happens to adore his useless dad.
Bunny has no redeeming qualities. He’s a serial adulterer, petty thief and worse. His door to door peddling of wares gives him the perfect opportunity to pander to his baser desires with lonely women but things don’t always go his way. Immediately after the death of his wife (whom he actually loved) Bunny, in desperation, takes to the road with his sample case, his son and the (real or imagined) ghost of his wife. Over the course of a short few days Bunny Junior helplessly watches his father slide further and further into the maw of a mental breakdown.
I found myself reading this open mouthed at times as Bunny’s actions became more and more reprehensible. There’s never a dull moment in this book. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but I’d certainly recommend it. It’s short enough and it sticks very much to the point.
on 17 January 2016
Bunny Munro is a charming, feckless and womanising salesman, based in Brighton. One day his wife commits suicide, devastating his hitherto happy-go-lucky life. He takes to drink, he thinks he sees her ghost, he takes their young son out to work with him, leaving him for hours in the car – basically, he can’t cope, and when even his former sexual charm deserts him, he spirals swiftly downwards. I guess the allusions are to Death of a Salesman and Don Juan; and to the seedy, violent Brightons of Graham Greene and Helen Zahavi.
Bunny’s a convincing salesman type, but his actual job feels like the sales world of the 1950s. Where’s his laptop? Why isn’t he more often on his mobile? This firm – surely they’d be a franchise of a big company? Do they really honestly use blokes nowadays to sell women’s cosmetics? Nor, while the sheer catholicism of his taste in women (‘a potentially hot Arab chick in full burka’) is very funny, did I believe many of the pickup scenes. But the father-son relationship is beautifully done, as Bunny Junior (the book has a strong American flavour) loves his dad but begins, over the timeline, to start suspecting his faults. It’s a swift, present-tense, blackly comic read.