If you’re apprehensive why Sean Penn’s complacent face has been all over the allocution appearance ambit of late, here’s why: He has a atypical out today. No, your eyes do not mislead you: We all anticipation he was aloof an Oscar-winning actor, an audacious all-embracing journalist and onetime terrible husband to Madonna, but he’s article abundant more. Aloof like David Duchovny and Tom Hanks, Penn is a actual arcane amateur man.
When account bankrupt beforehand this ages that Penn’s admission novel, Bob Honey Who Aloof Do Stuff, not alone existed but included a composition about the #MeToo movement, I accustomed it as a blaring alarm to action.
“Saddle up, Fallon,” I told myself. “An actor’s aureate book needs puncturing.” I absurd my analysis archetype of Bob Honey Who Aloof Do Stuff and acclimatized in to ruin my own weekend.
Now, I apperceive what you’re thinking. Is it needlessly contemptuous to apprehend a affected celebrity’s actual bad atypical absolutely in adjustment to douse on it? Yes. But the accurate antic is on me, because it’s physically absurd to douse on a atypical that is already ablution on itself so hard.
Bob Honey is an exercise in ass-showing, a 160-page self-own.
We ability additionally alarm it needlessly contemptuous to beforehand such a debris atypical as the additional advancing of The Crying of Lot 49 aloof because it was accounting by a broken white man with an unearned faculty of bookish advanced and a well-thumbed thesaurus. Nonetheless, Penn was accustomed to broadcast this novel, and Salman Rushdie blurbed it. So actuality we are.
But I’m accepting advanced of myself. What is Bob Honey? It’s a abbreviate atypical about Bob Honey, an crumbling catchbasin catchbasin entrepreneur, merkin bagman and government arrangement analgesic of chief citizens (they cesspool society’s assets and after-effects methane). Bob Honey does stuff, and he doesn’t like all the BRANDING and SELFIES the adolescence do these days.
He obsessively hates his chubby, red-haired ex-wife, and he obsessively adores a adolescent woman called Annie, who has alopecia and is absolutely hairless. After they aboriginal accept sex, he requests that she use a merkin, as he’s “[n]ever one for psychosexual infantilism or pedophilic fantasy.” Eventually, President Donald Trump becomes a amount in the plot, but this happens after account or anecdotal consistency.
Aside from that, it’s adamantine to explain what the atypical is about. It’s consistently smash-cutting from Bob’s California home to Baghdad in 2003 to a barge in the Pacific Ocean. In anniversary place, article agitated happens that signifies actual little in the arrangement of the novel. Nothing hangs together. Generally back critics analyze a atypical to a “fever dream,” they beggarly it as a compliment, carrying that the book creates its own adorable cosmos and dream logic. Back I say that Bob Honey is evocative of a agitation dream, I beggarly that it’s nonsensical, abhorrent and larboard me bathed with circuitous abhorrence and confusion.
All able-bodied and good, you ability still be thinking. But is Bob Honey wildly offensive? Reader, it is.
Scattered throughout is the array of blithe racism and misogyny that qualifies Penn’s assignment as “darkly comic.” At assorted points, the atypical espouses accelerating viewpoints ― that women speaking up about abduction is brave, that extrajudicial killings of atramentous men are wrong, that bodies should accept voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump. But Penn has continued struggled to construe his declared advanced views, and his blameless causes, into a admiring attitude adjoin women and bodies of blush generally.
Bob Honey is no different. Its apathetic pro-equality screeds sit uneasily in a book that invents a New Guinean architect convoying in 2003 Baghdad, which he refers to as a “grass-skirted core of cannibals,” and nicknames a atramentous boyish babe who lives with a bloodthirsty earlier man “juvie Jemima.”
The atypical again makes comedic hay out of abandon adjoin women, while captivation them up as altar of ridicule. Women are abhorrent because they accept lipstick anointed on their teeth, because they age, because they try to abstain aging, because they accept boogers, because they’re chubby, because they allocution too abundant or too audibly or at the amiss time. They’re dead in all sorts of bright ways: hammers to the skull, helicopters abolition into their burghal homes, scissor-lift collapses, actuality plunged into shark-infested waters. Their deaths are plinking adroitness addendum in the symphony of Bob’s adventures.
Offensive, yes ― yet the book apple loves a provocateur. And conceivably the artifice is a nausea-inducing mess, but in arcane fiction, artifice isn’t necessarily king. What of Sean Penn’s book stylings, which becoming him comparisons to Mark Twain and E. E. Cummings by [checks book jacket] actor Sarah Silverman? Is the book any bigger than the underwhelming narrative?
Well, Penn’s book is worse.
It’s not generally that you apprehend a arcane atypical about which the best adulatory adjective you ability use is “derivative,” but such is the case here. Transparently modeled on the assignment of transgressive 20th aeon arcane men like Thomas Pynchon, William S. Burroughs and Charles Bukowski, Bob Honey is abounding with 25-cent words, tits and assholes, and political harangues.
“I doubtable that Thomas Pynchon … would adulation this book,” blurbs Salman Rushdie. I’m abiding Pynchon would, in the faculty that it’s adulatory to be so agilely imitated.
As a long-time, amorous apostle of polysyllabic words and close prose in the name of attention and complexity, I accede myself accomplished a actual aching assignment by Bob Honey. Sometimes, best words are not added precise. Aloof because Penn chose to use the chat “soupçon” doesn’t beggarly he’s acclimated it precisely. (In fact, he rarely uses words absolutely correctly.)
Here are a few sample sentences demonstrating Penn’s “shock and awe” tactic of deluging readers in a flood of sesquipedalian agreement which, on afterpiece inspection, almost beggarly annihilation in the accustomed adjustment and context:
“Hence, his activity charcoal endlessly alloyed with her identity-infidelity, and her abhorrent ascensions to those connected blue sessions of animal anchoress she’d apparent as self-regard.” ― folio 11
“Whenever he acquainted these collisions of affliction and succubus, he punched his way out of the proletariat with the bent inputting of buried codes, thereby cartoon aberration through Scottsdale deployments, abstention the ambuscade of innocents astray, artifice the aristocrat faddy of Viagratic assaults on basic vaginas, or worse, falling irenic into actual pastimes.” ― folio 36
“Behind adorning gabion walls, an aged acquaintance sits centurion on his balustrade watching Bob with clandestine soupçon.” ― folio 71
“While the advantaged patronize this bind as appellation to the epigenetic asperity of equals, Bob smells a cyber-assisted beforehand emboldened by right-brain Hollywood narcissists.” ― folio 99
This is all, apparently, declared to assume acutely amusing and profound. Instead, it’s affiliated to the artefact of a postmodern abstract bot. It doesn’t assume absolutely accessible that a animal being wrote this mess.
In part, this is because Penn has assertive cutting tics that assume like the artefact of a awry algorithm rather than a acquainted choice. For example, alliteration. Penn’s affection for adumbration is so apparent that I wondered, at times, whether he anticipation it was a prerequisite of the atypical form. I advised accoutrement Bob Honey by artlessly rounding up every instance of adumbration in the novel, but copy 92 percent of the book would be a absorb violation. Instead, a few samples:
“Bob’s adolescence aspect set him up for a break from time, synergy, and amusing mores, arch him to acts of indelicacy, acid words, and afflicted whimsy that he himself would appear to dread.” ― folio 12
“Silly questions of cherries adored served to bisect any aftermost consequence Bob ability accept had of Spurley as a austere citizen.” ― folio 94
“There is pride to be had area the prejudicial is accomplished with attention in the acerbic triage of concrete terminations.” ― folio 125
“His dream’s arid aurora circulation dictated disturbances in the abandoned of beheld detail.” ― folio 142
This prosodic barbecue culminates with a six-page coda poem, which delivers some heavy-handed insights on our accepted political moment. Here’s Penn on #MeToo:
Though warrior womenBravely airing the walk,Derivatives of disproportionDraw abhorrent hypocritesTo their flock.[….]Where did all the action go? Are you out there, Louis C.K.?Once acute conversationsKept us on our toes;Was it absolutely in our interestTo bruise Charlie Rose?And what’s with this ‘Me Too’?This infantilizing appellation of the day…Is this a toddler’s crusade? Reducing rape, slut-shaming, and capitalism to adventuresome child’s play?A belvedere for allegation impunity?Due action has absent its sheen?But, fuck it, what me worry?I’m a hero, To Time Magazine!
As I apprehend Bob Honey, I couldn’t stop cerebration of Lili Loofbourow’s recent, ablaze Virginia Quarterly Analysis essay, “The Macho Glance,” which argues that we debris to apprehend genius, or alike aesthetic intentionality, into works by women. The cast ancillary is that we do readily assume those things in the works of men. Her axial archetype of the closing abnormality was the aboriginal division of “True Detective,” which was “analyzed and advised to the point of apology — so abundant so that, in the aftermath, assorted critics wrote accessories about their adventures of so abominably overreading the show’s ambitions.”
I aboveboard accept that no austere analyzer will embrace Bob Honey as credulously and breathlessly as critics accepted “True Detective” ― the arcane apple is apprehensive of hobbyist celebrity authors ― but Penn’s already been offered added account of the agnosticism than he’s earned, and added than any agnate extra would receive. He joins a baddest aggregation of acknowledged white macho actors who anticipate they accept actual arcane things to say, and who accept accordingly been offered album book deals with blurbs by Salman Rushdie.
Y’all: We don’t accept to do this. The abutting time Matt Damon or Gary Oldman or, God forbid, Alec Baldwin decides that he has a atypical in him, publishers can aloof say no. Save that beforehand for addition who knows what “soupçon” means, or at atomic addition who won’t address the afterward passage:
“She begins to writhe, cackle, and ahem out her amusement uncontrollably. Her eyes watering, she about poos. Bob spies what ability be a dime-sized and accretion damp bloom from her rear-end-center, blame conceivably some basal ass-piss.”
Lord save us from the basal ass-piss of Sean Penn’s arcane genius.
Clarification: A antecedent adaptation of this adventure adumbrated Penn allegedly had been calumniating to Madonna back the two were married. In 2015, in a affirmation affidavit filed in cloister as allotment of a defamation accusation Penn filed over the allegations, Madonna denied Penn had abused her.