Wednesday, 9 February 2011

9/111 - The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave

I bought this book when it was still out in hardback at the beginning of 2010. It was half price, and so a pretty good deal. I bought this book mostly for totally stupid reasons, but they are reasons all the same. Firstly, I liked the cover. It had a huge cuddly bunny on the front of it. It also had a ribbon marker, which I thought was also pretty cool. All in all, a good-looking book. I also had some sort of notion that Nick Cave was cool, because my manager at the time had said as much. My final reason for buying the book was that it had been recently nominated for the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction award. I couldn’t say no.

Bunny Munro is a door-to-door salesman of beauty products. He is a cad. In fact, he is more than a cad – he is a total scumbag. He is married to Lydia and they have a 9-year-old-son, Bunny Junior. Early in the novel she commits suicide and the rest of the story is spent following the exploits of Bunny as he drags Bunny Junior around with him.

In some way this is a very funny novel. It’s crude and sort of obscene, but in a way that makes me laugh because I can be kind of crude and obscene sometimes. Bunny himself is a sex-obsessed chauvinist who, unable to keep his enormous sexual appetite in check, nudges his wife into suicidal depression. Which is kind of funny, in a way. For Bunny, every other thought is of Avril Lavigne’s vagina or playing with his dick. The funniest moments however are not the crude bits, but his interactions with the ever-so-sweet Bunny Junior. Nick Cave does a really great job of switching between the thoughts of these two characters, and I was utterly convinced by Bunny Juniors well-meaning and heartfelt confusion, and his unfailing love for his dad. The saddest moments are when he realises all over again that his mother is dead and won’t be coming back.

The book is set in Brighton, which is cool, because having lived there for several years myself I enjoyed reading all the names of places I’ve been to and being able to imagine much more clearly how a house full of women in Moulsecoomb would behave. The quality of the writing itself is also very good, though I’m not so sure about some of the characters. Pretty much everyone we encounter in Bunny Munro is a figure on some kind of spectrum of pathetic human beings. 

Aren’t we all?

Ultimately there was very a sinister element to Bunny’s character, too. Which I can’t really talk about unless I spill some plot details, but whatever. If we are to believe Bunny’s account of things, he is God’s gift to women. He has some seriously powerful mojo and the ladies just cannot resist him. In reality, there are several glimpses of him from about halfway through the novel and onwards, behaving in loathsome, despicable ways. He’s obsessed with his dick, and constantly thinking about the vagina of any woman who enters his sphere of awareness. He describes with lasciviousness the physique of one girl, and in the next paragraph she is revealed to be a three-year-old. In another instance, he is thinking back to a great time he’d been having with a girl, wishing that he had brought some lube, and then lamenting that she would probably recover from the rohypnol soon.

As the novel gears towards its climax, Bunny’s action s reveal him to be less like the old-school charmer that he thinks he is, and more like a monster who imposes his sexual will on women no matter what they have to say about it. As his character unravels, the plot also seemed to do the same thing. It seemed to be going in a particular direction and then just become stuck in one place for ages before ending abruptly and strangely with a strange dream sequence that I didn’t find all that convincing. One review I read of this described Bunny Munro as a tale of redemption, but I would have to disagree. Whatever ‘redemption’ is reached at the climax of the novel left me feeling unsatisfied.

Next time: The Still Point by Amy Sackville

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