Ken's Reviews > The Death of Bunny Munro

The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
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Sep 22, 2009

really liked it
Read in October, 2009

What a difference twenty years makes. Nick Cave’s first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, which was released in 1989, opens with:

“Three greasy brother crows wheel, beak to heel, cutting a circle into the bruised and troubled sky, making fast, dark rings through the thicksome bloats of smoke.”

His new novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, released in 2009, strikes a slightly more minimalist note with its first sentence:

“I am damned, thinks Bunny Munro in a sudden moment of self-awareness reserved for those who are soon to die.”

Much like comparing his dark, brooding, classic early music to the simpler, more straightforward approach of his later albums, the author’s two books really are the work of two completely different Nick Caves. How can you possibly match the younger songwriter who so perfectly channels the final anguish of a condemned man on “The Mercy Seat” with the sarcastic older gent who has a laugh at the expense of the Bible’s most notorious zombie on “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”? It would be an exercise for the Cave-obsessed and does the man no justice. To expect the author to write in the same style as he did in 1989 makes no sense.

So what does Cave deliver with The Death of Bunny Munro? The style of this new book strives to keep it simple, tell an engrossing story, and not beat the reader over the head with its themes. They’re easy, obvious, and yet engrossing. You get hooked right away. And in some ways, this story becomes classic Nick Cave – a simple ballad of a disastrous end.

Bunny Munro is a louse who is no good to himself, his family, or any of the unfortunate women who cross his path. A traveling salesman of women’s cosmetics, he is, shall we say, vagina-obsessed. Every waking of the minute of the day, if he is not trying to get his hands on his own clients, he is at least fantasizing about them, or about Kylie Minogue, or Avril Lavigne, both of whom he has a running obsession with. In fact, it’s safe to say Bunny is more obsessed with the female sex organs than the females themselves, based on the parade of both anonymous and well-known vaginas he often pictures in his mind. Obviously, this causes havoc for Bunny’s marriage, especially when his wife calls it quits by hanging herself in their bedroom, leaving Bunny with his namesake, a young boy he barely knows or speaks to. Luckily, Bunny, Jr. sees none of his father’s faults, having an almost inflated image of his dad as the greatest salesman on the planet. Unsure of what to do with the kid, Bunny takes him on a road trip. Why? Well, Bunny is horny. His wife’s death has left him mentally adrift (even if at first he ignores the signs), driving Bunny to seek solace in a hit-list of female clients he views as easy targets. However, things, like life, don’t go as planned.

What follows is at turns hilarious, violent, dark, disturbing, and often very sad. Bunny runs into a carnival of living, breathing characters that are richly rendered. Most notable amongst them is a nasty chap, dressed in a devil’s costume, who goes about murdering women in the neighboring towns and streaking through the local shopping malls. With out overtly stating it, Cave makes the subtle comparison between the horned-devil and the horny devil.

As Bunny’s mental state deteriorates, we watch a character who has zero redeeming qualities to begin with, spiral even further downward -- with a child in tow to boot. And this is where I think most readers lose the book. To read it just as a sexual romp or a mean-spirited attack on male misogyny, is to sell the book, and Cave’s skill as a writer, short. They are so focused on the salacious aspects of the novel, that they miss the bigger story. This is the tale of a father who has no business raising a child, trying to redeem himself in the most absurd and stupid way imaginable. The heart of the novel really is in Bunny Jr., who midway through the book starts to see his father for the child that he is (even if the younger Munro suffers from condition that affects his eyesight). We realize that Bunny Jr. is the better of the two and all we can do is hope he makes it through in better shape than his father.

As I’ve seen many people mention, in several reviews, Bunny has no redeeming qualities. And I don’t think Cave intended him to have any. We’ve become so accustomed to anti-heroes, characters for whom we feel as much attraction as repulsion, that we had forgotten the allure of a good-old-fashioned bastard who just makes your skin crawl. There is no Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter-ego, in Bunny Munro. We’re not supposed to like him. And this case, it works. In spite of Bunny’s sick behavior, you can’t help reading further to see how much farther he’ll drop – and he does, rock bottom in the worst way imaginable when his vagina obsession gets the worst of him. But again, Bunny’s fate is foretold, no big spoiler there based on the title. What happens to Bunny Jr. is ultimately what we really care about. Can he rise above all the mayhem and carnage?

After finishing the book, I couldn’t help but think of the Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! album. Often maligned and disrespected, it is just another side of Cave and his cohorts in the Bad Seeds. And yet many of the hallmarks of his style are there. The same can be said of The Death of Bunny Munro. Give Cave the leeway of an open mind and you’ll find some surprising things in this book.
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Reading Progress

09/22/2009 page 22
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04/13/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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RandomAnthony Excellent review, sir...I like Dig, Lazarus, Dig! Am I the only one?


message 2: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken I really dig that album as well. "We Call Upon the Author," "Jesus of the Moon," "LIe Down Here," "More News from Nowhere," -- all really great songs. It's not Murder Ballads, but like Boatman's Call (another album people don't seem to like), it stands on its own as a really interesting change-up in terms of musical style.


message 3: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie This is a brilliant review...thank you! I picked this book up on sale and, after loving And The Ass saw The Angel, I was concerned I'd be let down with this one because it appears so different. You have put it into perspective for me and you're spot on. Using the example of his music and the massive difference between Nick Cave of now and Nick Cave if The Birthday Party days, it has encouraged me to read The Death of Bunny Munro with that in mind - two very different Nick Caves. Personally, I think the man is a genius and am a huge fan. I really appreciate your review. All the best.


message 4: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Katie wrote: "This is a brilliant review...thank you! I picked this book up on sale and, after loving And The Ass saw The Angel, I was concerned I'd be let down with this one because it appears so different. You..."

Thanks Katie, glad you dug the review and were convinced to give the book a chance.


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