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A Review of Sean Penn’s Political Satire, ‘Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff’


Waste management and pollution-as-symbolism seem quite popular themes in modern fiction (qua, Dellilo’s Underworld) thus it seems fitting that Hollywood actor and sometimes reporter, Sean Penn’s debut novel should cast a waste management expert as the lead. Penn’s novel, curiously titled, ‘Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff,’ begins in — and tells the story of Bob, a boomer who works numerous different jobs, one of which happens to be a stint as an assassin. Bob is proficient, disgruntled, antisocial and yet extremely keen and idealistic; perpetually at odds with the powers that be, Bob ranges throughout the United States, on an absurdist journey of self discovery. To encompass and delineate any more of the plot would be a fairly faulty endeavor as the focus of the book is less on narrative clarity than on social commentary, which increases in terms of both frequency and indignation the further into the tome one delves.

Bob seems to be something of an avatar for Penn, especially given lines such as the following, “America, it seems to Bob, is no longer that beautiful girl who’d birthed him, but instead, the ghost of a girl he’d never known.” This line (and many similar one’s which can be found scattered throughout the book) encapsulate both the character’s outsider mentality as well as Penn’s own political frustrations. Some of his character’s are relatively transparent analogs to real life people, such as The Landlord, the president of Bob Honey, an unmistakable facsimile of Donald J. Trump, president of the United States of America (‘landlord’ doubtless referring to Trump’s history of business in the real estate industry). In the tale, Penn describes The Landlord as a “-violently immature seventy-year-old boy-man with money and French vanilla cotton candy hair,” such descriptions, whilst amusing, have been cited by critics as being a little “on the nose” and distracting to the plot.

 

Given the newness of the work, no critical consensus has yet been reached but the two principal opinions which seem to be forming, positive and negative, are firstly, that the book is narratively all over the place, yet, at the same time, a biting and highly amusing look into contemporary politics (and what Penn thinks about them). Thus, if you are someone who likes their fiction wild, multi-layered, crazy, colorful and relevant, Penn’s peculiar and incendiary novel, ‘Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff‘ might just be for you.

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