Nick Cave, The Death of Bunny Munro (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2010), 278pp
I read this book having fairly recently become a fan of Nick Cave's music. As an artistic vision, The Death of Bunny Munro at 278 pages is unfortunately not as fully realised as the stories which Cave can put into a song of about four minutes. But Bunny himself is perhaps a character that one may find in one of Nick's songs (perhaps on Dig, Lazarus, Dig or Grinderman?). Certainly, he is as dark and unsympathetic a character as Cave has ever written about - even on Murder Ballads. Bunny has no redeeming features and his exploits (and the language Cave uses to describe them) will be off-putting for many readers. But it is rather bold of a writer (particularly one who has only written one previous book) to write a character so depraved. Perhaps counter-intuitively, it is this lack of sympathy for Bunny that engages the reader. We look on Bunny as we might look on a car crash (beneath our screaming umbrellas?). It is this realisation that one has a sort of voyeuristic interest/pleasure in the grime and misfortune of others that makes the book such a unique read.
However, there are to my mind some negatives to the story. For such an unpleasant man, it is surprising how easily Bunny can make his conquests. Over a three-day period, his liaisons are probably into double figures (I didn't keep count) and at times it seems like every woman he encounters is willing at the drop of a hat to engage in the most explicit acts with him. The awkwardness and disgust with which the women greet him later on in the story as he unravels and loses his mojo, is probably the reaction that any man acting like this would get in real life, not just when they're at the end of their rope. Cave also has a slightly annoying tendency to end descriptive passages with 'or something'. It's hard to explain without providing a load of examples, but it stuck out for me. It kind of fits given that the prose is stream-of-consciousness from the perspective of either Bunny or his son, but to my mind it was a technique used far too often.
Finally, I thought the ending with the crowd in the ballroom was either forced or rushed. The redemptive angle of the scene fits in well with Cave's persona (it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with his work that he is interested in religious themes and imagery) but, when you think about it, he is apologising to no-one but himself in the rain. That is rather pathetic, though perhaps this was intended to show just how ignorant and self-involved Bunny is, even in the throes of death. But the truth is, one can draw many such inferences from the novel, but the novel itself does not do a great job of guiding you towards them. Nick Cave remains an excellent songwriter and musician, but I will reserve my judgement on whether he is a good writer of fiction until I have read And the Ass Saw the Angel.