I’m a collector, a hoarder, more specifically, a bibliophile. In my attic are plastic storage boxes, within each bubble wrapped first editions and signed copies of books that I once loved. To avoid foxing and fading of dust covers, or the sticky fingers of my children, they have never seen a shelf. But they exist and they are beautiful. My hope one day is to purchase a sealed bookshelf (with lock and key) complete with spotlights that I can exhibit my collection. But I don’t think that will ever happen. In truth, I have amassed so many that I can’t recall what books skulk daily in the attic above my head. On the odd occasion, I’ll go up there and open one of the plastic containers and lose myself in those illustrated dust covers, trace my fingers along their spines and marvel at each word committed to their pages. I can lose hours up there, and I can say, not one is wasted. Today I did just that, and for the next five days I’ll be posting up a very select few.
Today is Nick Cave. I couldn’t find my first edition of And the Ass Saw the Angel (I own two), nor my advanced reader’s copy of Bunny Munro. Instead, I found this very rare edition of Bunny released by Cannongate (love that publisher), as well as a limited edition The Sick Bag Song (a collection of poems) and rare edition of Lovely Creatures, which I have yet to open. Yes, you’ll see in the coming days that some books I don’t even open but preserve in shrink wrap lest they get soiled.
For those who have never read Nick Cave’s literary contributions, beware that, like his music, he’s an acquired taste. But I can say, wholeheartedly, that he is a fucking genius with the pen. Here’s my thoughts on The Death of Bunny Munro, his second foray as a novelist.
Following on from his critically acclaimed debut novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel, Nick Cave’s second novel tells the story of Bunny Munro, a traveling salesman who, after the suicide of his wife, takes his son on a road trip around the South coast of England in attempt to forsake his demons and outrun the Devil.
On first reflection, I wasn’t entirely sure what the hell the book was about. I assumed that Cave was exercising his own demons through his prose. Cave’s father died when he was a young man, and the story of Bunny and Bunny Jnr could be seen as a boy wanting to know his father better, but they are worlds apart, emotionally, so even the most basic of communication is beyond their reach, which might be a comparable experience Cave had with his father when alive. Alternatively, with Cave reaching his twilight years (Christ, I hope he never reads this!), maybe he is redefining his role as a father, and the responsibilities it brings – Cave has at least three, maybe four children.
Another conjecture forced me to arrive at the conclusion most writers, regardless of what they say, have some part of themselves in their characters. It’s almost impossible to write objectively. In the past, Cave has been labeled a dirty old man based on a few of his song lyrics, and he’s been reported as liking the designation. This may help to explain Bunny’s unnatural obsession with the vagina throughout the book. Moreover, it can’t just be coincidence that the main character is named after the most reputed horniest animal alive, can it? Not surprising then that Cave designed Bunny to have a natural magnetism which most women find irresistible. His charm has made Bunny a decent living as a traveling salesman, allowing him to work his magic to seduce lonely housewives and single mums into partaking in cheap cosmetic products, and the pleasures of the flesh. After his wife’s suicide, Bunny begins to feel her presence around every corner, seemingly robbing him of his unnatural magnetism. But his gift is Bunny’s undoing. It had ended a life, and forced him to accept the responsibility of raising his son, something quite alien to him based on his experiences with his own father. What began as a simple busman’s holiday, a fun trip with his stranger son, as well as a perfect excuse to pageant his beguiling influence on the female species, becomes more a journey of abstemiousness for Bunny. And it is because of this we see a change in character. The deeper into the journey he goes, the more Bunny searches for absolution, absolution for his sins as a father, as a son and a husband.
From the beginning, Heaven was to Bunny a perfect place where you could fuck all day without consequence, and for a long time he lived a happy existence there. But like Adam, he fucked up. His desires became the reason for his eviction, and when you abuse the laws of Paradise, there is only one place left for you, and for Bunny that was the archetypal holiday choice for most English low-income families, Butlins – a place where Bunny spent time with his father, and first discovered his talent. I can say with some authority that having spent a week in Butlins when I was 20 years old, I can think of no better analogy of Hell.
Overall it is a brave book, and perhaps in comparison to his first novel, which was more like eating Banoffee pie covered in Maple Syrup, The Death of Bunny Munro tasted like plain Vanilla Cheesecake. Nothing wrong with cheesecake. In fact, I love cheesecake! And while Cave gave us a book that was simple on the surface, plain to the eye, the more you trawl through its words, the flavours begin to surface.