On the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album The Lyre of Orpheus, there’s a song called ‘Babe, You Turn Me On,’ during which the lyrically coruscate Cave sings: ‘’Now, the nightingale sings to you/And raises up the ante/I put one hand on your round ripe heart/And the other down your panties.’’ In an inextricable manner, these lines may well have been the kernel of this top-notch novel The Death of Bunny Munro, during which said protagonist thinks of very little else other than a vortex of vaginas, and the invariably vitriolic pursuit thereof: ‘’ As he negotiates the late-afternoon traffic, Bunny […] is almost blown out of the driver’s seat by a blizzard of imagined pussy, glittering and sleek and expensive and coming at him from every direction – Jordan’s, Kate Moss’s, Naomi Cambell’s, Kylie Minogue’s, Beyonce’s and, of course, Avril Lavigne’s – but spinning up through all of that, in an annulus of tiny handcuffs and resting on a cartoon cloud of Chanel, comes the humble vagina of the police constable, number PV388.’’
Top stuff eh? Or, should you find yourself clutching for the nearest Bible in search of Cliff Richard and redemption - not to be confused with Keith Richards and an erection - then maybe not. This second novel by Nick Cave - his first And The Ass Saw the Angel has just been re-issued through Penguin - is without doubt, a mighty enthralling and compulsive read; but it’ll probably trigger a plethora of mother-in-laws (along with the entire county of Surrey) into re-subscribing to Politically Correct Monthly. For as shameless and blameless as these two hundred and seventy-eight pages of high-octane’n’candy-coded, sexual prowess and psychosis are, they’re as equally icosahedronic.
The Death of Bunny Munro, like of much of Nick Cave’s work, substantiates the invariable and sometimes uncontrollable darkness that lurks just beneath the surface of normality – whatever normality is. Such as the darkness contained within the acknowledged inevitability of death (‘’his yellow, deathbed fingers clawing the air like a rack of tiny, mangled antlers’’), or the trajectory of one man’s pursuit of redemption (‘’The applause, like an inverted roar, is sucked from the room and there is a whirlwind of confusion and all the furious light bulbs of recognition ignite at the same time. Then follows a howl of outrage that breaks across Bunny with such force that he is propelled backward and almost knocked off his feet’’), or the wanton denial of death, even once it looms large (‘’He pictures his father, momentarily, as a medical skeleton sitting in an ancient leather armchair, tubercular lungs sucking at white powdery ribs, fag in hand, snarling into the telephone. The image terrifies him and he squeezes shut his eyes but the dread skull of his father continues to dance before his eyes. I’ll try him again some other time – he thinks’’).
Anchored alongside the above are huge dollops of Cave’s humanity and humour, which, like both the man and life itself, are an intrinsic and valuable respite from the everyday tedium (anguish and pain) of inexorable existence. In Part One/Cocksman, Cave writes: ‘’He finds the Adult Channel and a televised phone-in sex line and he allows an East European girl named Evana, who has a tight, hot, wet pussy and the bedside manner of a mallet or something, to coax Bunny through the most forlorn wank, he thinks, in the history of the world;’’ whilst in Part Three/Deadman, he bequeaths the reader with: ‘’Mrs. Bonnie England […] a prime stomach-churner with the proportions and sex appeal of a Portakabin.’’
A cross between Franz Kafka and Peter Kaye, The Death of Bunny Munro is an exceptionally, thought provoking and delightful read. So here’s hoping it doesn’t take the author another ten years to release his third novel.