Friday, October 01, 2010

The Death of Bunny Munro

Nick Cave

However much he meant to – and he is quite literally on record as being an avid listener of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour – legendary Australian songwriter Nick Cave has written a novel for the feminist (or feminist ally) in all of us. Meanwhile, devotees of Cave’s music will delight at this literary outing for his “lower” Grinderman persona, and the plentiful Bad Seeds-style flourishes of purple prose.

The eponymous anti-hero is a self-styled “cocksman”, whose career flogging beauty treatments is just another way to put himself in the homes of many, many women in the Brighton area. When his abandoned and exasperated wife commits suicide (“she had a medical condition”), Bunny must take care of nine-year-old Bunny Junior. This would be difficult enough if his life wasn’t careening out of control, he wasn’t desperately trying to have sex with almost every woman he meets, and he wasn’t apparently destined for an encounter with an even more menacing horny devil.

The language use is wonderful, and Bunny’s relationship with his son is drawn with great skill and subtlety. But the particular strength of the novel is its rendering of Bunny’s thought processes, and their basis in his biology (to a small extent), his upbringing (to a larger extent), and the patriarchal onslaught of the mass media (to the maximum extent). His mind is a chaotic whirl of Kylie videos, underwear adverts, and the image oh so carefully designed for Avril Lavigne. As a result, any woman who isn’t immediately won over by Bunny’s dubious charms is clearly a “bitch” or a “rug muncher”.

Cave brilliantly portrays a society on the edge, while illustrating the crucial difference between fancying some women and believing one has an inalienable right to possess every woman. The death of the salesman is obviously flagged-up by the title, but it’s the manner of his demise that’s the most intriguing. Just when you might be forgiven for finding the central character a bit one dimensional, his ending rounds him off in fitting style.
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