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With "The Death of Bunny Munro" lyrical genius Nick Cave introduces us to one of the most arguably despicable characters in literature. Bunny Munro (the second as we learn) is a master of the sales pitch and has 'a way' with the ladies... a way that brings with it a taste of bile when his inner monologue is revealed to the reader. Bunny operates on the road, leaving behind a wife whom he says he loves and a young son whom he takes for granted at best, at worst he ignores. With the suicide of his wife, Bunny has no choice but to saddle up with his son and get back out on the road, and we are witness to the downward spiral of grief-driven depravity that follows. In Bunny, Nick Cave is not so much trying to re-create Willy Loman as much as he is showing us a working man who has no aspirations beyond his own deviant appetites. He paints this man as a screaming caricature of vulgarity, perverse and misogynistic, specifically towards women, and you cannot help but hate him completely.
I have to admit that there was a certain satisfaction in knowing the title "The Death of Bunny Munro", being a woman, it was what kept me hanging on to see what happened. So why did I put up with this sexual deviant all the way to the end? It is the end that you find the true satisfaction, and it isn't at all what you expect. You forgive Bunny Munro. It is here that Nick Cave's genius truly shines, and that is with the transformation not of the character... but of the reader.
I will not say that you'll love this book. It is a novel that is not for everyone, particularly those that are easily disturbed by the grimy truths about human nature. I will say that it's a story that you'll not soon forget. With Nick Cave narrating his own work there is an uncomfortable intimacy shared. As you come to the end, you realize that its supposed to be uncomfortable, and you wouldn't get it any other way.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
OK, I've been a Nick Cave fan for many, many years now. Too many to claim. I read his first novel, And The Ass Saw the Angel, when I was in my twenties. I fell in love with Eucrid Eucrows' manic cataloging of random objects, his utterly absurd "aloneness" in a ficticious landscape that was a cross between the swampy American South of the early 20th century and the brutality of settlement life in early Australia.
And then came "The Death of Bunny Monroe", which I have now read in my early fourties. I found this new novel to be a relentless, one note narrative. Considering the energetic complexity of it's author, I was shocked to find the title character, Bunny Monroe, to be so utterly lacking in depth. OK, we get it. Bunny's addiction to sex and self destruction is all consuming; at the peril of his wife, to the physical and psychological detriment of his son, and most certainly of his own soul. But this point is made glaringly evident within the first few chapters. From there, the story does not progress. This same dark chord is struck over and over in each successive chapter with the same effect on the reader. Bludgeoned, devastated, having lost all faith in humanity and the genetic bond between father and son, the chapters plod on and on. The reader is not expecting redemption at this point, just some other angle to the story, some irony, some progression, something. But it never comes.
The way The Death of Bunny Monroe wraps up is remeniscent of Patrick Suskind's "Perfume". In both novels, quite unredeemable characters get a very public, somewhat nonesensical comeuppance that could only exist in the rich fantasy life of it's characters. Bunny's is consistently flat and predictable, whereas Jean Baptiste's leads the reader to some kind of absurd epiphany about the power of the most underexplored of the human senses.
Hopefully, Cave's third novel will be the charm.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful