Sean Penn has just published his debut novel – and critics are already having a field day ripping it to shreds.
Titled Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, the book is a dystopian tale about the eponymous Bob Honey, a “contract killer for an off-the-books program run by a branch of US intelligence that targets the elderly, the infirm, and others who drain this consumption-driven society of its resources”.
Honey is described as someone who is “sick of a world where even an orgasm isn’t real until it is turned into a tweet”.
The book’s synopsis reads: “With treason on everyone’s lips, terrorism in everyone’s sights, and American political life sinking to ever-lower standards, Bob decides it’s time to make a change – if he doesn’t get killed by his mysterious controllers or exposed in the rapacious media first”.
Near the end of the novel, Honey pens a furious letter to a fictional US President, known only as ‘Mr Landlord’. The Trump-like character is described as a “violently immature seventy-year-old boy-man with money and French vanilla cotton candy hair”.
There is also a poem that serves as the book’s epilogue which calls #MeToo a “infantilising term of the day” and the movement “a toddlers’ crusade”. “Are you out there Louis CK?,” Penn writes, asking where all the “laughs” have gone.
While Salman Rushdie appeared to enjoy the book, calling it “great fun to read” and saying that he “suspect[s] that Thomas Pynchon and Hunter S Thompson would love this book,” others have not been so convinced.
The New York Times called it “a riddle wrapped in an enigma and cloaked in crazy”, pointing to its “linguistic traffic jams where you can almost hear the words honking at each other to get out of the way” and arguing that it “induces something like Stockholm syndrome — you admire the novel just because you’re surviving it”.
The Huffington Post largely agreed, describing Bob Honey as “an exercise in ass-showing, a 160-page self-own”.
Entertainment Weekly‘s reviewer was a little more positive, writing: “Penn has a lot to be angry about and wants to make it known; Bob Honey is a nearly pure, reactionary vent. Fortunately, that’s en vogue right now. Indeed, it’s this strange, flawed world which so grates on Penn that has ushered his strange, flawed book into existence. There, finally, is something for him to cheer.”
See some more reactions below:
Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff is out now.