Sean Penn may have fallen out of love with acting, but he may not want to give up on his day job just yet.
His debut novel, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, is getting lambasted by critics for its casual misogyny and meandering, get-off-my-lawn grumpiness, yes.
But mostly they can’t get past the awful writing!
Reviewers couldn’t help but include crude passages illuminating literary peccadillos like a preponderance of polysyllabic words and a litany of alliteration. (See how annoying that gets? Imagine it for 160 pages.)
Oh, and it ends with a six page poem that trashes the #MeToo movement. Eesh.
See some of the harsh responses for yourself (below)!
Claire Fallon, Huffington Post: “Often when critics compare a novel to a “fever dream,” they mean it as a compliment, conveying that the book creates its own otherworldly universe and dream logic. When I say that Bob Honey is reminiscent of a fever dream, I mean that it’s nonsensical, unpleasant and left me sweaty with mingled horror and confusion.”
David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly: “As for the language, Penn tries to drive the points home in ambitious prose — but his stylistic flourishes feel sticky and overwrought. (“Scottsdale’s dry climate contradicts the clammy calescent of New Guinean condensation” is a real sentence.)”
Mark Athitakis, The Washington Post: “As an audiobook, “Bob Honey” had a certain unserious, busman’s holiday charm. It got a lift from its variety of voices, though some of them were broad ethnic stereotypes… For the novel version of the story, though, Penn is relegated to being a maker of sentences. May he never quit his day job; Penn delivers prose as if he were gunning for a prize from the American Alliteration Association. “Dreams died like destiny’s deadwood,” he writes.”
Jeff Giles, The New York Times: “Still, for a wild ride, “Bob Honey” is conspicuously un-fun. For every perfect, plain-spoken sentence (“It is on that couch where Bob feels safest, almost embraced”) there are dozens of linguistic traffic jams where you can almost hear the words honking at each other to get out of the way.”
Jonah Goldberg, National Review: “Somewhere there is a dog-eared, nicotine-soaked thesaurus with Sean Penn’s smudged fingerprints all over it… It’s the kind of thing you write when you don’t have the confidence to say what you want to say the way you want to say it, so you follow a formula (“4 parts alliteration, 1 part wry masturbation references . . .”).”
Sian Cain, The Guardian: “Penn doesn’t just swing and miss with his ambitious vocabulary; he swings and cracks a hole in reality as we know it, leaving us all unsure of the concept of a good sentence, how a novel should be structured and generally what makes sense any more. Words are not just misused, they are misplaced, to the point that Penn’s prose is more reminiscent of bot than man. One can only emerge blearily from sentences such as “Bob hastily exited and breathed the new morning’s Muslim air”, or “Behind decorative gabion walls, an elderly neighbour sits centurion on his porch watching Bob with surreptitious soupçon”, or “She sharted agave shimmering spirits and shifted shit-faced overboard.” It’s like beat poetry, just somehow worse.”