Having had some knowledge of Nick Cave, an Australian-born singer/songwriter/actor/performer who now resides in England, but not having had enough specific knowledge to consider myself either a fan or an anti-fan, I figured reading his second novel, The Death of Bunny Monro, might give me the information I needed to get off the fence. Suffice it to say that I have fallen with a full-on face-splat onto Cave’s side of the fence (I may have actually jumped, on purpose, but my head is spinning too much for me to make sense of it).
Quick side note: a while back, I decided to introduce myself to John Updike’s infamous character Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom by reading Updike’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Rabbit is Rich. That was the third in a four-part series about Rabbit, and after reading it, I wished I’d started with the first book instead so that I could have read them in series. At the time of Rabbit is Rich, Rabbit is a middle-aged family man who constantly battles his inner demons and desires, including his lusty thoughts toward women in his circle of friends and acquaintances.
I don’t know if Nick Cave named his main character in this book “Bunny” as some sort of tribute to Rabbit Angstrom, but it’s impossible to deny the similarities. In fact, while one might think of a “bunny” as a smaller “rabbit”, Cave’s character has many of Rabbit’s habits and tendencies, but on an exponentially larger scale. Bunny is everything that Rabbit might have been had Rabbit not had the sense to self-govern.
Bunny is a traveling salesman who peddles beauty products around the south of England, and he is a slick, handsome, womanizing alcoholic. He spends much of his time with a bottle in hand, visiting specific potential “customers” that have been pegged by his co-workers as potential targets for mid-day adulterous escapades, and fantasizing about Avril Lavigne’s body parts (seriously).
He seems to be having success in his endeavors until returning home from a sales trip to find that his wife has committed suicide, and he is forced to figure out how to piece his life back together while having to actually care for his son nine year-old son, Bunny Jr.
The book is divided into three parts: Cocksman, Salesman, and Deadman. The Cocksman part of the book introduces you to Bunny and takes you through the circumstances surrounding his wife’s suicide and its immediate impact on Bunny. Salesman takes you through Bunny’s escapades as he decides the best way to power through this tragedy is to pack his son up in their little Fiat and drive around the south of England with a list of “targets” that Bunny will try to “hit” (while making Bunny Jr. wait in the car at each stop). This is where Bunny starts to unravel, and it is both terribly saddening and frighteningly hilarious at the same time.
Deadman tells of what seems to be Bunny’s complete and utter meltdown. And it might also tell of Bunny’s death, but I won’t spoil that part of it for you. Let me just say that the way Cave has written this part of the book is just breathtaking, heart wrenching, and sadly beautiful.
I’m not going to say that this book is for everyone. There are certainly those among you who will be disgusted by Bunny and by his story. But in my mind, there is no denying that I have stumbled upon a genius in Nick Cave. I will absolutely be on the lookout for his first novel (written twenty years ago).
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Do You Love Me