A good character transcends the circumstances into which he is written, and sometimes I like to think about what Bunny Corcoran might be up to if Donna Tartt’s The Secret History hadn’t ended his life so soon. In an interview with the BBC in the ’90s, Tartt described the bumbling and amicable Bunny as “the kind of person you just know is going to be a useless alcoholic fixture at the country club by the time he’s 35.” But I think our current landscape, with its fondness for mildly attractive blondes with very little going on between the eyes, might have more to offer the doomed protagonist by the year 2021.
Tartt’s first book is a reverse-engineered mystery and the perfect summer novel, a tightly wound story that begins with an allusion to Edmond “Bunny” Corcoran’s death at a Vermont liberal arts college and then traces the circumstances that led to his murder—circumstances that largely involve an insular group of eccentric and self-regarding co-eds obsessed with ancient Greek.
“Bluff old Bunny,” a hearty back-slapper of a boy from Connecticut, is well-bred but not particularly sharp, the blue-eyed and blonde-haired child of a football star-turned-banker raised in a “big noisy house in the suburbs” full of boys. I think Bunny would have gotten along famously in a Tik-Tok house, where I imagine him choreographing a deeply unfunny bit to one of his favorite patriotic marches, undulating unsexily in basketball shorts holding a selfie stick. I imagine Bunny as the subject of a viral news clip, perhaps telling a reporter he likes to “get pitted” after he defected from New England over an argument with his mother, or as a YouTube prankster repeating homophobic jokes.
I knew a lot of boys growing up who were like Bunny. They’re sports-adjacent, school-adjacent, music-adjacent, heartthrob-adjacent, but not particularly good at anything at all, a blank slate ready to be imprinted by any influence that happens their way. That despite all this they’ve managed to float through life comfortable and unbothered is enough to instill in them a buoyant, infectious sense of good will. Most of these guys end up working for their fathers at firms that set the ocean on fire or expose children to black mold. But that Bunny, in Tartt’s novel at least, was killed for the very qualities that made him a himbo—his garrulousness and lack of tact—might rank him among the most iconic himbos of all.
One of the more satisfying bits of Tartt’s novel is how it slices through an archetype—the burly middling offspring of the upper-class, confident for no good reason—to reveal its natural fulfillment as a perfect buffoon. There’s nothing to Bunny, as far as his friends are concerned, but a few squares on the aristocratic New England bingo card: “An American childhood,” the narrator notes. “With sailboats and tennis rackets and golden retrievers at their disposal; summers on Cape Code, boarding schools near Boston and tailgate picnics during football season; an upbringing vitally present in Bunny in every respect, from the way he shook your hand to the way he told a joke.”
Obviously, Himbo is a pretty expansive concept, and it’s often used as a term of endearment for a wildly hot man who is too dumb to be mean. But I’d argue that a figure like Bunny fits squarely into the mold, a himbo embodying the lowest common denominator of that particular kind of guy. It’s implied that Bunny, though not a wildly attractive man, does pretty well with girls. His assertive, forever self-interested demeanor makes him a popular guy, despite the pretty obvious lack of clarity or intention with which he goes about his days. The man is a large doomed Labrador retriever, guaranteed himbo-ness by the circumstances of his birth. It’s one of the most enduring kinds of big dumb attractive assholes, and New England pumps more of them out every year.