DEAR OH DEAR: Drugs everywhere, and seedy companions; terrible scenes in bottle-filled kitchens.
Well, I don’t know what Avril Lavigne is going to make of all this. When I interviewed Nick Cave for the Phoenix three years ago and he told me — drolly, languidly, literarily — that his next writing project was about “a sexually incontinent hand-cream salesman” on the south coast of England, I assumed he was taking the piss. But here’s Bunny Munro crashing around Brighton with a sperm-caked sock under his car seat, slathering ointments onto the extremities of his lady clientele and rolling his distempered inner eyeball over “the curtain of ironed hair, the zany black-rimmed eyes and the pornographic cupid-bow mouth” of a certain multi-platinum Canadian songstrix. Bunny is “almost positive that Avril Lavigne possesses the fucking Valhalla of all vaginas.” Dear oh dear. (Faithless even in his fixations, he also has a thing — or a thing — for Kylie Minogue, whose anodyne disco romp “Spinning Around” he has creatively misread as a hymn to anal sex.)
|The Death of Bunny Munro | By Nick Cave | Faber & Faber | 288 pages | $25|
The Death of Bunny Munro is Cave’s second novel. His first — 1989’s impossible And the Ass Saw the Angel, from deep in his heroin-and-Deuteronomy period — now seems almost the work of another man. Almost. Scrape at the surface of the new book and you’ll find a familiar landscape. “I am damned,” announces Bunny in the first line. He’s on a bender, a real arc of destruction. Drugs everywhere, and seedy companions; terrible scenes in bottle-filled kitchens. His wife just hanged herself, which may have something to do with it, and now he’s all-day-shitfaced under his pomaded kiss curl, with his libido hauling him this way and that like something out of a Jim Carrey movie. The “blanched backside” of a waitress, the “glistening and moisturised lower leg” of a social worker — how’s a man supposed to get anything done with all this ass everywhere?
Worst of all, Bunny is not alone: nine year-old Bunny Junior is along for the ride, because he has nowhere else to go. Bunny Junior is a good boy — he loves his dad, and he reads his encyclopedia, and he passes his frequent moments of abandonment thinking about quasars and dinosaurs. The father-son scenes are heartbreaking: the pair’s relationship is suspended in an element of pure neglect, but when “Spinning Around” comes on Bunny’s car radio, they erupt with shared joy. “Whoever said that there isn’t a God is full of shit!” says Bunny. “Full of craperoo!” echoes a delighted Bunny Junior.
Were he not such a raving fuck-up, Bunny might be a fairly decent hand-cream salesman. “Barry White in a bottle, this stuff,” he murmurs, scrotum whirring. “Slip into this at the end of the day and it will waft you to paradise.” But if cheapo paradiso is what he’s peddling, there’s inferno behind his eyes. The Devil himself is abroad, with red face and horns, murdering women across the country — he keeps showing up on the evening news. Bunny Junior ponders the frozen interior of Saturn; Bunny Senior is in Hell. Sex mania has blown his mind — into tiny pieces, enough to fill a herd of Gadarene swine.
Perhaps you missed the beautiful Introduction that Cave wrote to the Canongate edition of the Gospel According to Mark? Not to worry; here — in raw-power, wreck-of-the-Deutschland prose — is a proper case of Markan diabolic possession. (See also: Hubert Selby Jr’s The Demon.) “To be carnally minded is the death of Bunny Munro,” said St. Paul, more or less. Even Avril Lavigne might be able to get behind that.
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