Nick Cave’s disappointing second novel, The Death of Bunny Munro, is a Bad Seeds record in book form with all the wit stripped away. Cave’s music is misanthropic, but even in a song like “No Pussy Blues,” you kind of root for the sex-crazed narcissist. Door-to-door women’s-beauty-product salesman Bunny Munro, however, is contemptible from the very first page of the novel, and only becomes increasingly tiresome as the book trudges clumsily along.
It goes like this: Following a brief rendezvous with a hooker, and another one with a waitress shortly after, Bunny gets in his car and jerks off thinking of, among other things, Kylie Minogue in gold-lamé hotpants, a perennial fantasy. After finishing, he wonders if his wife will be up for it. He returns home to find that his wife has hanged herself in the orange nightgown she wore on their honeymoon—and Bunny’s infidelity is to blame. So he hits the road with his encyclopedia-reading nine-year-old son, Bunny Junior, who blindly idolizes his father. The father hardly knows his son exists as he sells his beauty products and fucks the memory of his wife out of his mind.
Cave spends the entire novel threatening to redeem Bunny, only to reveal, all too gradually, that he has no soul to save. Bunny continuously feels the ghost of his wife begging him to show remorse, and Cave throws all kinds of possible salvation his way, but each prospect is stymied by Bunny’s penis. It’s a tedious read, and Cave’s stygian sense of humor, a driving force in his music, causes the novel to drag on as a series of insulting dirty jokes: Bunny retreating to a church restroom to beat off while a priest reads his wife’s eulogy; raping a dying junkie in a heroin den because she resembles, vaguely, Avril Lavigne; seeing a three-year-old in “gold hipster hot pants” and thinking, Maybe in a few years.
Cave juxtaposes Bunny’s hedonistic road trip with the journey of a roaming serial rapist who wears plastic devil horns, paints his body red, and stabs women to death with a pitchfork. It’s the most compelling image in the novel—Bunny’s foil, undeniably—and yet the connection that Cave ultimately makes between the two is as superficial as all of Bunny’s relationships. Even worse, the murdering doppelgänger is far more likable than our supposed “protagonist.” Stick to music, Nick.