Okay, for the next couple of posts we’ll be veering away from my usual sci-fi/fantasy/science selections and trying something a little different. This first book is, to put it mildly, disturbing. Nick Cave’s debut novel And The Ass Saw The Angel has been a firm favourite of mine since the first of the many times I read it. Something about the setting, the characters and the way he twists and contorts language left you feeling dirty after reading it, stained of soul and troubled of mind. Nonetheless there’s something completely mesmerising about it which keeps you returning. The Death Of Bunny Munro doesn’t quite hit the same cerebral spot but it does confirm that Mr Cave is a wonderfully sick man. Without further ado, and to borrow a line from one of his songs “It’s into the shame and it’s into the guilt and it’s into the fucking fray…”
Bunny Munro is a sorry excuse for a human being. Pathetic in fact. In his mind he is the be-all, end-all. The pinnacle of the alpha male ideal. Women want him, men want to be him. In reality he is a travelling salesman, hawking beauty products to lonely housewives in the south of England. Every client is a potential sexual conquest and he casually fucks his way through a slew of divorcees, recluses and B&B staff while his wife and son, Bunny Jr., await his return. Unfortunately for Bunny, it appears that the majority of his fornicatory successes take pace only in the foul cesspit of his primeval mind. In fact the only things remarkable about him are his sickly fascination with Kylie Minogue’s ass and the terrifying frequency with which the word ‘vagina’ crosses his mind.
Soon Bunny’s philandering catches up with him and he returns home to find his son alone and his wife hanging in their bedroom, finally having given up any hope for her former lover. Following confrontations with her understandably hate-filled family, he takes Junior under his wing and resolves to show his the way of the salesman. The plan is to impart all of his worldly wisdom and transform the innocent child into a replica of himself. From here, everything starts to fall apart. Bunny’s sanity begins to creak at the strain of supporting the embellished reality which he has created for himself, the constant visitations by the mournful spirit of his departed wife and the difficulty of having to deal with raising a child for the first time. It’s only a matter of time before something snaps.
The Death Of Bunny Munro is car-crash entertainment in it’s highest form. You know fine well that you shouldn’t be enjoying this book. Everything about it sings to the lowest, basest parts of our nature. Bunny is such a vile creation that his odour lingers on every page and you need to keep tissues on hand to wipe your fingers after every page turn. But you can’t stop turning them, you’re transfixed by the grotesque scenes unfolding before you. Being a veteran of hardcore horror movies and the most twisted bizarro fiction lends you a certain immunity to the depredations of most author’s minds but it’s the banal reality of Cave’s novel which lends it such power. Bunny Monro is more haunting than any closet monster, demon or alien because he could be that person sitting opposite you in the train carriage.
The Death Of Bunny Munro never quite attains the literary heights of And The Ass Saw The Angel, that’s for sure. From a linguistic point of view it’s far simpler, less dense, less intricate. The language, as befitting a man of Bunny’s diminutive mental stature, is basic and to the point. But this has the effect of making it that much easier for it to infect your consciousness. You’ll breeze through it without having to pause for breathe, only noticing afterwards the festering brood of eggs it’s laid in your skull. In fact just writing about it makes me want to reach for the wire brush and Dettol. Nick Cave, I salute you.