After a two-decade pause, the post-punk singer-songwriter finally follows up his well-received first novel (And The Ass Saw The Angel, 1990) with a lurid fantasia about a drug-addled salesman.
This could easily be the literary companion to Cave’s recent howling performances with garage band Grinderman. When we meet long-since-gone-to-seed Bunny Munro, he’s shacked up with the latest prostitute, multitasking by phoning to comfort his mentally disturbed wife Libby. A sex-obsessed peddler of beauty products, Bunny numbs himself by limiting his input to the next selfish pleasure. Returning home, he finds Libby has slashed all his clothing and hung herself in a locked bathroom. Instead of comforting their nine-year-old son Bunny Junior, the once-charming lothario fills himself with poisons, packs his bonnet full of inventory and hits the road with his son for a series of misguided lessons about manhood. Bunny’s melancholy worldview takes some getting used to, but he’s fitfully sly and unabashedly narcissistic, which also makes him unpredictably funny. Told he should be extinct, Bunny declares, “I resent that. I take personal hygiene very seriously.” As the story develops, he achieves a broken grace that belies his repellent character and faintly hints at redemption. Things get weirder when Bunny starts seeing Libby. “He realizes, in a shadowy way, for a brief moment, that the imaginings and visitations and apparitions that he encountered were the ghosts of his own grief and that he was being driven insane by them,” Cave writes in characteristically lyrical and macabre prose. “He knows more than he knows anything that they very soon will kill him.”
Profane and profound by turns—not for everyone, but Cave still knows how to command an audience.