The Death of Bunny Munro
By Nick Cave
If Bunny Munro was a pilot, he’d be heading across the Atlantic with no hydraulics and smoke in the cockpit. The smoke would come from his chain of Lambert & Butler cigs and the hydraulic fluid would be diverted to maintaining his near constant erection. Mr. Munro lives in a constant state of arousal, and when not selling cheap cosmetics and his ineffable charm to chav women, he’s jerking off as he cruises for hookers. He loves his wife but his nonstop infidelity drives her to suicide, and she haunts both him and their nine-year-old son Bunny Jr. until they die in a horrific combination of auto accident and lightning strike. I’ll say this for Nick Cave — he captures a side of jolly old England that you’ll never see on travel posters or PBS.
Like watching a celebrity die on the front cover of a tabloid, you can’t put this book down, even if every aspect of Bunny Munro disgusts. He pomades his hair and possesses a magnetic charm that gets women in the sack with nearly dead certainty, yet drives them to flee in fear if they see him a second time. Counterbalancing his disgusting personality is that of his son, Bunny Jr. The boy is sweet, intelligent, and worships the stinking carpet his dad walks on. With mom dead and Bunny Sr. at loose ends, they take off on a road trip through the sleaze of southern England on a trip that technically counts as child neglect. Bunny Jr. has yet to feel the first flush of hormones, and you wonder what he might turn out like after dad “shows him the ropes.” Right now he has just one friend; an encyclopedia that mom bought him. Facts are his only allies, and one fact that is slowly dawning is that his dad is out of control.
Cave’s novel is full of Briticism, and takes us deep into the white trash worlds of east Sussex. The writing style is fluffy and fast moving, cleverly documenting Bunny and his son as they enter the death spiral of losing the one thing that held both their lives together. While Bunny Sr. was never a great husband, childbirth made him retreat into himself, only to return and reattach himself to the boy, abandoning his wife in principle if not in fact.
While The Death of Bunny Munro is packed with sex and fornication, it never drifts even close to the literary land of erotica. The sex acts are mechanical and perfunctory, no different from an alcoholic drinking or a psychopath killing. This book neatly inverts the porno movie — happiness from instant regretless sex is replaced with a ravaging path of bloodied emotions and failed relations. It’s Death of a Salesman for the early 21st century.