The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave

The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave (2009) French title: Mort de Bunno Munro.

‘Listen, you loopy old cunt. My wife just hung herself from the security grille in my own bloody bedroom. My son is upstairs and I haven’t the faintest fucking idea what to do with him. My old man is about to kick the bucket. I live in a house I’m too spooked to go back to. I’m seeing fucking ghosts everywhere I look. Some mad fucking carpet-muncher broke my nose yesterday and I have a hangover you would no fucking believe. Now, are you gonna give me the key to room seventeen or do I have to climb over this counter and knock your fucking dentures down your throat?’

No need to sum up the events that brought Bunny Munro to his last rope, they’re all listed in this quote.

When the book opens, we meet Bunny Munro, salesman who visits his prospects at home and sells them beauty products. The first chapters get us acquainted with Bunny, a man obsessed with sex. He’s an addicted womanizer and the ladies seem to fall for his charms. Still, we’re a bit struck by his looks and wonder how he’s such a ladies’ man.

Bunny opens the front door. He has removed his jacket and now wears a cornflower blue shirt with a design that looks like polka dots but is actually, on more careful inspection, antique Roman coins that have, if you get right up close, tiny and varied vignettes of copulating couples printed on them.

Right. See what I mean about the sex-obsessed mind? We soon understand that he’s a very unreliable narrator. The book has three parties, aptly entitled Cocksman (where Bunny shows us the extent of his uncontrollable sex-drive), Salesman (He’s on a tour to see clients with his son in tow after his wife’s death) and Deadman (cf the title of the book).

In Part One, the reader is amused by Bunny’s antics. In Part Two, the reader starts feeling very sorry for his son, Bunny Junior, understands the reasons of his wife’s suicide and get more and more alarmed by Bunny’s character. In Part Three, the reader is just plainly horrified.

Despite Cave’s fantastic sense of humor, I was ill-at-ease and my uneasiness grew chapter after chapter. The horror of this tale about this sexual predator is partly hidden by the comic thread around the rabbit theme, which is extremely well-done. Bunny loves his name and loves playing with his name and identifies his sex addiction with something embedded in his name. Bunny plays the rabbit card any time: ‘Oh baby, I am the Duracell Bunny!’ and he does a fair imitation of the pink, battery powered, drumming rabbit, up and down the hall’. And now that I’m typing this quote, I see a dildo instead of the Duracell Bunny.

Lots of details in the book or in the way it’s written are linked to the rabbit theme. The rabbit is the symbol of the magazine Playboy. Of course, the expression going at it like rabbits fits him perfectly. The discussions between Bunny and his boss seems to come out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Even Bunny’s son fits in the theme. First, he’s named Bunny Junior. Then he has a chronic eye infection that gives him red rabbit eyes. And when I read “The boy responds with a tilt of the chin but his feet start flip-flopping furiously”, I saw the rabbit Thumper from the Disney movies.

All these ridiculous allusions to rabbits, the ludicrous clothes and ties, the way Bunny goes from one apartment to the other, always hitting on isolated and lonely women make him look like a pitiful loser. You’d almost take pity on him but Nick Cave makes sure that you gradually realize that you are in company of a dangerous sex predator. Bunny’s head is deranged, here he is at McDonald’s:

Bunny sits in McDonald’s with a defibrillated hard-on due to the fact that underneath the cashier’s red and yellow uniform, she hardly has any clothes on.

He’s a sicko, plain and simple. He might have a funny rabbit fetish, he’s still unhealthy and a danger to society. This sums up my ambivalence towards the book. I admired Cave’s craft: the style is extremely funny, he takes his character through a last crazy and desperate run at life, a Thelma & Louise trip in Brighton, UK. But the character of Bunny Munro himself made me terribly ill-at-ease with his incompetence as a father, his sick relationships with women that cover the whole scope of sexual misconducts, sexual harassment up to rape. And through all this, he never thought he was doing anything wrong. A frightening journey in the head of a sexual predator who deep down knows his behavior is wrong but never acknowledges it. Chilling.

Many thanks to Guy for sending this book over the Atlantic. His review is here. There’s another PG13 review on Lisa’s blog here.

  1. April 10, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Going to put it on my reading list, it’s def something for me 😂😂

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  2. April 11, 2018 at 1:03 am

    Glad you liked it. If that’s the right word?

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    • April 11, 2018 at 10:03 am

      I don’t know if I enjoyed myself. I sure had a lot of fun tracking down rabbit stuff and reading Cave’s hilarious prose. And at the same time I was horrified by Bunny when I understood the extent of his sickness.

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  3. April 11, 2018 at 7:35 am

    I’ve gone and read all three reviews, they’re not so different. None of you suggest the mother might have skipped suicide and gone off with Bunny Jr so I guess that wasn’t an option. I’m always uneasy with books, movies with anti-heroes (Clint Eastwood for instance!) so I’m not tempted. I might review Dave Warner one day, a louder singer and a writer of wry crime fiction.

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    • April 11, 2018 at 10:11 am

      I don’t think it was an option for her. She was too wrecked to have the resilience to do that. She had loved and married a cheat and a criminal and she understood it too late.

      He’s an anti-heroe, that’s for sure. And as always with characters like this or books about domestic violence we wonder why no one is here to help. But in real life, it happens too.

      I’m curious about Dave Warner! I don’t know him though. I knew Nick Cave as a musician before reading his book. I discovered him when he worked with PJ Harvey and I’ve even seen him on stage here, at the antic theatre. Have you heard Johnny Cash’s version of The Mercy Seat? Brilliant. A totally different vibe to the song that gives another view of the character’s words.

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      • April 11, 2018 at 11:07 am

        No, haven’t heard the Cash, will chase it up. Not sure Dave Warner ever made it very far out of WA but he had an enormous booming voice. See Dave Warner’s ‘From the Suburbs’ (the name of his band) on YouTube singing Just a Suburban Boy.

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        • April 12, 2018 at 11:22 am

          Thanks. I will check him out.

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  4. Jonathan
    April 11, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    I’ve liked Cave’s music for years and his first novel was brilliant. It took me a while to get used to the style being totally different.

    I used to live in Brighton and got used to seeing the Dudman trucks racing about. I now work a bit further along the coast and see these huge skip-hire trucks racing about with the word ‘RABBIT’ on the front. It makes me think of the novel every time I see them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 12, 2018 at 11:28 am

      I’m not a specialist of Nick Cave’s music but to me there’s the same insolence in the songs and in the books. The book has a comic side that the songs don’t have, that’s for sure.

      I’ve been to Brighton once and the city is very present in the book. It reminded me of my stay there. (Nick Cave lives in Brighton, right?) This book is not one you forget easily, so I understand why the “rabbit” signs make you think of this novel.

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  5. April 15, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    I’m not sure I’m tempted but I’m amused that you went from this to Willa Cather!

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 15, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      I do have eclectic reading tastes! Like Guy, apparently since both books come from his blog.

      I have tons of quotes about Bunny and his wardrobe. Cave has a funny imagination and his wit made the rest bearable.

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  6. April 15, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    I think I gave this to my son to read, and he was somewhat ambivalent, so I never rushed to read it myself. Not sure I will now either!

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    • April 16, 2018 at 1:06 pm

      I was ambivalent about it too. There’s a definite comic thread and Cave has a fantastic imagination for crazy details.
      The ending was a bit strange too, very Anglo-Saxon, I may say.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 16, 2018 at 2:17 pm

        Ah, dare I ask what you say about the ending being very Anglo-Saxon? Can you say it without spoiling?

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        • April 16, 2018 at 9:54 pm

          I guess so: a giant mea culpa in a sort of retreat, the kind of public shaming and contrition act only Anglo-Saxon anchormen and preachers do. (Catholics prefer confessionals) 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • April 16, 2018 at 11:53 pm

            Ah thanks Emma … love it. I’ll try to think about that, when I read non-Anglo literature. I can see how the difference might play out.

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  7. July 3, 2018 at 1:04 am

    I am a big fan of Cave’s music, but haven’t read his novels. This description fits with his sense of humor, for example when at a concert in Zagreb he invited a teenage girl on the stage and sang to her “Suck my…” – the song is Stagger Lee. Gotta read the book!

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    • July 3, 2018 at 10:21 pm

      Hello, welcome to Book Around the Corner and thanks for your comment.

      I’ve seen him at a concert too, great show. Let me know what you think of his book.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. January 3, 2019 at 6:32 pm

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