The Weirdest Lines From Sean Penn’s Wannabe-Gonzo Novel

By
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Meet Bob Honey, the star of Sean Penn’s debut novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff: “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.” (p. 119) If Timothée Chalamet’s Lady Bird character and Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass did coke in a grimy Bushwick bathroom before they sat down at a pair of Urban Outfitters typewriters with a cursory AP English Lit knowledge of Hunter S. Thompson, they would produce this book. The novel follows its hero as he goes to the Middle East, serves as an serial assassin of octogenarians, ignites a black dildo, and hosts a sparsely attended block party. Somewhere in there is a diatribe that takes on Trump. Here’s the only joke that semi-lands: “Bob Honey’s nosy neighbor regularly encourages her dog to poop on his lawn.” And now, some choice excerpts:

General self-righteousness:
“You want to kill me because I won’t blow you hard enough? You want to kill me because I don’t really believe we’re the ‘best’ country in the world? Because I don’t want to buy a used car from your boss, or don’t believe in the gods you lie to?” (p. 151)

“I don’t know if I ever really tell the truth, much. I wonder sometimes if truth might be more habit than virtue.” (p. 31)

On women:
“Getting older in America is tough on a woman; seeing what she’ll do to avoid it is tough on a man. While there can be nothing better than doing business with an established firm, Bob often thought, the maintenance of femininity cannot be measured by masquerade, masculinization, or marvels man-made.” (p. 71)

“Some of them see us and some of them don’t. But, they all see our sins. Don’t you think?” (p. 92)

On #MeToo:
Vulture’s review copy didn’t include the excerpt critical of #MeToo, but here it is, from The Wrap:

“There are no men nor women/only movements own the day/until movements morphy to mayhem/and militaries chip away/whether North Korean missiles/or marching Tehran’s way/Where did all the laughs go?/Are you out there, Louis C.K.?” The poem continues: “Once crucial conversations/kept us on our toes/was it really in our interest to trample Charlie Rose?/And what’s with this ‘Me Too’?/This infantilizing term of the day/Is this a toddlers’ crusade?/Reducing rape, slut-shaming, and suffrage to reckless child’s play?/A platform for accusation impunity?”

On Hillary:
“Not charismatic enough for you folks? Too shrill? Too hawkish? Isn’t it true that you never wanted qualifications? You wanted a star, you wanted to be charmed, seduced, entertained. Was she the worst possible candidate or are you the most arrogant, ill, and unqualified electorate in the history of the Western world?” (p. 150)

Alluding to Trump:
“… The bloated blond high priest and the pavonine of branding. The masturbatory populist who’s become a media sensation, and then some, during his candidacy for King, making despots sing. And helping the retro-party, so inviting of the stupid, to conscript the even stupider.” (p. 100)

“Many American people in pain and rage elected you. Many Russians did too. Your position is an asterisk accepted as literally as your alternative facts. Though the office will remain real, you never were nor will be. A million women so dwarfed your penis-edency on the streets of Washington and around the world on the day of your piddly inauguration-unprecedented (spelling okay?).” (p. 149)

“Tweet me, bitch. I dare you.” (p. 149)

On, um, gun control:
“Bob sits himself center couch, flicks on the TV. Another debate over guns. Bob sometimes doesn’t know what the fuss is all about. It seems to him that words are as lethal as any weapon. Words, unburdened by background checks and available at all times to all persons. Still, Bob understands that assault by word is most typically employed as weaponry of domestic dispute and antidemocratic dog whistle. Situations where media interest is minimal, lacking as they do the entertainment value of a warm gun.” (p. 99)

On millenials:
“An age group so lost to letters and steeped in transactional sex, it seemed of them that they distinguished little between an active orgasm and an acted one. So quickly might Annie cum that he’d try thinking of chocolate bananas, cotton candy, and chugging trains to ward of consciousness of her detachment and perhaps to delay his own ejaculation in hopes of making hers definitively real and defiantly human. Yet, to no avail.” (p. 35)

Spoken by a millennial character: “You think yourself a killer but there’s no one left to kill. Identity is life. The world has replaced its identity with electronics. You, old man — if you don’t mind me calling you that — are from a generation of SELF-love. Our only self is … well … selfies.” (p. 131)

Descriptions of a nameless black teenager Bob Honey had a crush on as a boy:

“That beautiful black girl, the one the neighbors had now branded a whore. He thought of her beauty and the lure of her chocolate legs standing at the trailer’s screen door. One way or another, he would fill ol’ Cowboy’s boots.” (p. 13)

“[If only he were] riding his red Schwinn raining fire on rivers, riding work-runs with Cowboy, and relishing with regret the chocolate-brown legs of the black girl called a whore he’d never had opportunity to love or explore. Like the heart, brain, liver, or kidneys, skin too is a vital organ. That we are shamed for our love of skin is a bias toward brain minus organic kin. That Bob was born to explore makes neither he nor teenage black chick ‘whore.’” (p. 101)

On movies:
“Normalization of commercial compromise had left this medium as one of dominantly irrelevant fantasies adding nothing to the world, and instead providing a perfect storm of merchanteering thespians and image builders now less identifiable as creators of valued product than of products build to significant sales. Their masses of fans as happy as hustled, bustled, and rustled sheep.” (p. 88)

“He realized that not only in the road-roaming reality has romance been relinquished to ruins, but the cinemas themselves have been caged and quartered into quixotic concrete calamities of corporatized cultural capitulation.” (p. 119)

The Weirdest Lines From Sean Penn’s Wannabe-Gonzo Novel