I returned the book within the hour after I had purchased it. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that I have somehow turned my interests away from Nick Cave – not at all. It’s just that the book is dreadful and I couldn’t stand the thought of wasting thirty dollars on claptrap. So I returned it.
If you’re reading this, you probably think that I’m a fool and I might well agree with you. Nick Cave is a lyrical genius you say – to which I consent head and heart. But my argument is that he’s a terrible author. At least if his latest novel means anything.
No, no, again I agree with you, his screen-writing abilities are quite good too. Yes, yes, I loved The Proposition and thought it was solid story. But as I turned the pages in The Death of Bunny Monroe, my vicarious embarrassment (to paraphrase a friend) was in full throttle. I mean, I am in the middle of reading Steinbeck’s overwhelming masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, so my standards are admittedly set a little high. Of course, nobody really compares to Steinbeck. I would have settled for less, honest I would. But when his gentle prose rings in your remembrance – “To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth” – how do the lurid and cheap descriptions of a drunken fool’s lustful contusions of the mind really stack up?
To be quite honest, I thought Nick Cave could do better. And he should have. Bunny Monroe is pure schlock. At least the first four chapters were (I couldn’t bear to turn to the fifth chapter or any other for that matter). They read like a low budget Harlequin romance, only instead of men who look like Michelangelo’s David caressing beautiful women, you get Bunny Monroe gawking at the heaving breasts of any woman who walks in the room. There is nothing of the beauty of The Boatman’s Call. There are no Henry Lee’s in this pile of rubbish. Not even a Stagger Lee. Just Bunny Monroe, grabbing his crotch, swilling liquor, making an “O” with his mouth before he puffs a cigarette – really Nick, an “O”? Is that the best descriptor you had at your literary fingertips?
Believe me, I can be convinced that the overarching narrative is good. At least it sounded good when I first read about it. A man named Bunny Monroe (no comment on the name) loses it after his wife commits suicide. The rascally rabbit goes on a bender of drinking and prostitutes all the while neglecting his son Bunny Jr., (again, no comment). The story reaches its crescendo with the boy winning over his old man in the bliss of redemptive reverie. And the reader, after he/she puts down the book is left to consider the oft-difficult relationships between fathers and sons. All in all, a story I wouldn’t mind reading. But, unfortunately, not the way Nick Cave wrote it.
So, as I stood in line at Indigo in Toronto, waiting for Nick Cave to sign my book, I summoned up the gumption and stormed right up to the master author himself and demanded an explanation. This can’t be, I yelled. Aren’t you the one who gave us “Red Right Hand”? How can this be? Did you really write this??? Well, no, not really. I just waited patiently in line, handed the cashier the book and she refunded me in cash. I glanced over at Cave who stood in the midst of a heaving crowd, happily putting his John Hancock to the frontispieces of his book, clutched in the hands of his unsuspecting fans clad in the trendiest indie attire. And indeed, I felt a little let down. It was like when I witnessed the debacle of Neil Young’s Greendale album first hand in Detroit. A little bit of my muse was torn away as I slinked over to BMV and bought a biography of Marshall McLuhan for $3.99.
Will this book be one more thing that he’s sorry for in the Thirsty Dog?