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Author: Nick Cave

2009, Faber & Faber

Best ebook deal: (I went for the iPhone Enhanced Edition, read more below)

Filed under Literary

This review is going to be a little different, as I read this book using the Enhanced Editions iPhone appbook version of the book. The first half will review the book, and the second will be an installment of iPhone Readers.

Nick Cave’s musical background is immediately evident when you begin reading this book. I haven’t read his debut And the Ass Saw the Angel, but I’ve since heard the writing is similar. Cave utilizes strong rhythms and cadences to his syntax. And while he doesn’t turn the crispest phrases, there is a hypnotic and musical feel to his writing, even if it is a bit manic and cacophonous at times.

This caught me a little off guard. In tackling a book by a rock star, I expected something heavy on plot and zaniness and light on literary style. Unfortunately, The Death of Bunny Munro delivers much the opposite. Despite the pleasingly readable and enjoyable writing, the book lacks considerably in character and plot.  Bunny Munro is an oversexed lout, a traveling lotion salesman who follows his penis around like a GPS tuned to broken, lonely, easily bedded women. And the book is pretty much about him being and doing just that.

When his wife, fed up with Bunny’s infidelity and lack of general human qualities, kills herself, Bunny is forced to care for their son, Bunny Jr., alone. Bunny figures the best way to handle his son is to keep up his drunken cocksman ways while Bunny Jr. plays navigator or waits in the car.

While at first the oddball characters and ridiculous situations are amusing and attention grabbing, Cave fails to employ a plot that encourages any sort of change to keep things interesting. Bunny and the other characters quickly become tiresome, even annoying (I got really tired with Bunny’s fantasies about Avril Lavigne’s vagina), and nothing really happens until the final pages, when Cave tosses in a twist that reads more like a desperate derailment designed to force him to end the novel than any sort of culmination of plot or story.

It’s a quick read, and the writing is certainly enjoyable. As long as you think of it as a vacation or commute read, there is certainly reason to dive into this book. However the novel got a lot of hype when it came out, and if you’re expecting a finely crafted book that takes all facets of novel writing into account, prepare yourself for disappointment.

Other books to try: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (Kerouac & Burroughs), Naked Lunch (Burroughs), Frisco Pigeon Mambo (Payne)

The iPhone appbook Extended Edition version has one particularly cool feature: the coupling of audio and text. This means you can read half a chapter, then hit the audio button and have the audiobook (read by Nick Cave himself) pick up where you left off reading. If you want to go back to reading, the text will be queued up to wherever you left off. This is cool, but it basically means this is a glorified and over-priced audio book ($24.99 at my time of purchase).

As an ereader app, Extended Editions is extremely lacking in features. The included videos of Cave reading are cool, but ultimately unnecessary and the same content as the audio, as the videos show Cave and not any sort of animation or dramatization of the novel (I’ve embedded a sample below). The ebook features–scrolling only, basic bookmarking and text formatting, excerpt sharing–are trumped by the audio, which is undeniably top notch audiobook quality. Cave reads quite well, and the background music and soundscapes, composed by Cave, are pretty great, even if calling it a “groundbreaking 3D audio spatial mix” is a bit of a stretch.

The biggest hangup with this Extended Editions version (aside from the steep price point and the gigabyte of memory space it hogs) is that it is a standalone app, and without background processing on the iPhone, everytime you field an email or text message, you must back out of the app, stopping the audio, and it takes a bit to long to reload up. This gets pretty annoying if you treat the app more or less as an audiobook as I did.

For $25 they should have thrown in an iTunes download of the audio; it would have eased frustrations with multitasking and probably increased the chance of me revisiting the text. As it is, I cleared the app off my phone for space as soon as I was done, and it’s unlikely I’ll rearrange my apps and music to make room for it again anytime soon. You’re better off buying the deadtree or ebook for half the price of this appbook.

The Death of Bunny Munro Chapter 17 from Enhanced Editions on Vimeo.