“It seems wrong to say that so dystopian a novel is great fun to read, but it’s true. I suspect that Thomas Pynchon and Hunter S. Thompson would love this book.” —Salman Rushdie
From legendary actor and activist Sean Penn comes a scorching, darkly funny novel about Bob Honey—a modern American man, entrepreneur, and part-time assassin.
Bob Honey has a hard time connecting with other people, especially since his divorce. He’s tired of being marketed to every moment, sick of a world where even an orgasm isn’t real until it is turned into a tweet. A paragon of old-fashioned American entrepreneurship, Bob sells septic tanks to Jehovah’s Witnesses and arranges pyrotechnic displays for foreign dictators. He’s also 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.
When a nosy journalist starts asking questions, Bob can’t decide if it’s a chance to form some sort of new friendship or the beginning of the end for him. 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.
A thunderbolt of provocative words and startling images, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff marks the fiction debut of one of America’s most acclaimed artists.
SHERIFF’S BLOTTER – WOODVIEW COUNTY, CALIFORNIA SEPTEMBER 15, 2001
“911 . . . What’s your emergency?”
“Yes. My name is Helen Mayo. I live at 1531 Sweet Dog Lane. I don’t know if I have an emergency, but I do have a new neighbor and I’m sorry if I just think he’s [loud dog barking renders caller unintelligible]—Nicky, please!—I’m sorry that’s just my little doggy—if I just think he’s behaving strangely, and perhaps, the police would like to take a look, or maybe go and . . . you know, sniff it out. Sniff, chat, whatever it is that you do.” [more dog barking]
“It’s a little difficult to hear you, ma’am. Can you describe the strange behavior, please?”
“Well, it seems he’s wrapping some kind of insulated wire around his house.”
“Insulated wire, ma’am?”
“Yes, or maybe a clothesline. He’s spooling it into his toolshed. I don’t know his exact street number, but it’s just two doors from me and across the street and I can see him from my kitchen window and, well . . . I don’t know. I just think the police should be involved.”
“Okay, ma’am. Thank you for your call. We’ll go ahead and notify patrol.”
“Thank you. Bye bye. [renewed loud dog barking] Who’s a good boy-ee?”
SHERIFF’S BLOTTER – WOODVIEW COUNTY, CALIFORNIA DECEMBER 7, 2003
Numerous residents of Upper Sweet Dog Lane reporting overgrowth of a neighbor’s lawn. A 30-day notice has been posted.
SHERIFF’S BLOTTER – WOODVIEW COUNTY, CALIFORNIA DECEMBER 23, 2003
Resident at 1528 Sweet Dog Lane was cited for illegal posting of placard admonishing, “International Airports Boast Morbid Mannequins at Duty Free.”
At 2200 hrs., a patrol car, dispatched to the address, served the citation to the location. Resident was either not home or nonresponsive to officers. The citation was left at resident’s door.
SHERIFF’S BLOTTER – WOODVIEW COUNTY, CALIFORNIA DECEMBER 24, 2003
At 0634 hrs., Woodview County Sheriff’s office was contacted by cited resident.
“Woodview Sheriff’s Office.”
“Yes, ma’am. I am resident 1528 Sweet Dog Lane and in receipt of a citation for illegal posting. To whom it may concern, it wasn’t my sign.”
(Without sufficient evidence to the contrary, citation was rescinded.)
SHERIFF’S BLOTTER – WOODVIEW COUNTY, CALIFORNIA DECEMBER 29, 2003
Neighbors complain of excessive lawn mower noise—0300 hrs. When patrol arrived at scene, all was quiet. Scent of fresh cut grass permeating the air.
SHERIFF’S BLOTTER – WOODVIEW COUNTY, CALIFORNIA DECEMBER 1, 2004
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“Yes, this is Helen Mayo on Sweet Dog Lane.”
“Yes, Ms. Mayo. What’s your emergency?”
“Well, I just don’t know. But that neighbor, I’ve called you about him before. He’s cut his hair in a rather disturbing way.”
“He’s cut his hair, Ms. Mayo?”
“Yes, but I wouldn’t bother you with a fashion, you know.”
“No, I’m sure you wouldn’t, ma’am. But you have to help me understand your concern.”
“Well, this hairdo of his, it’s something like a Nazi, or a woodshop teacher. And as you know, I’m not the only one on this street who has registered my concerns about this man. Despite numerous complaints or reports or what have you, I’m just baffled that you all have never actually engaged this gentleman. That you people haven’t made any official law enforcement contacts. Forgive me if I . . . that with all his strange behavior and haircuts and all that . . . you know what I mean . . . I’m not saying he looks Arab, mind you. He’s a white man. Anyone could see that, but I still think that the police should, well, you know . . . yes, sniff him out, just sniff that man out!”
SEEKING HOMEOSTASIS IN INHERENT HYPOCRISY
Cactus Fields, a Low-Cost Home for Assisted Senior Living, looms like a large khaki-colored brick isolated against a backdrop of distant ambient light. Its draped windows and solitary silhouette sit in a seemingly endless desert tableau. Here it seems that the desert itself has been deserted.
And there they are, the brand-less beasts of yesteryear. Moist, sagging eyes, illuminated by the rarefied strobe of a passing car on the interstate. Behind the windows of the beige stucco building that sits behind a dilapidated, sporadically visited parking lot where brown weeds burst through fissures in the pavement, eight senior residents have been awakened by the power cut. They huddle side by side in plastic chairs. Portraiture of sagging faces falling in and out of indelicate light and shadow. Theirs, a blotchy batch of colorless dermal masks. That last life spark extracted from their oblivion, a reckoning of their uselessness in a world where branding is being. Bound by brutal boredom. Then . . . mercy comes.
POP! POP! POP!
A chosen three down.
The elderly are being executed by a talented blunt force. Gloved hands reconnect wires in a power box out back. Eight now reduced to five whose day will come. A dull white Pontiac ignites its engine, rolls over the fissures of weed onto the interstate and under its driver’s breath, “It wasn’t me.”
Sean Penn won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performances in Mystic River and Milk, and received Academy Award nominations as Best Actor for Dead Man Walking, Sweet and Lowdown, and I Am Sam. He has worked as an actor, writer, producer, and director on over one hundred theater and film productions. His journalism has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, and HuffPo. This is his first novel.
“Charmingly weird…Penn takes on an ambitious challenge here, and he succeeds spectacularly. Bob is a wonderful character, the kind of guy you can’t take your eyes off… that’s part of the book’s almost immeasurable charm.”
– Booklist (starred review)
“Penn paints with a broadly satirical, Vonnegut-ian brush. . . . he gives nods (by way of sly footnotes) to the likes of David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon. . . . It’s good fun [and] a provocative debut.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“It seems wrong to say that so dystopian a novel is great fun to read, but it’s true. I suspect that Thomas Pynchon and Hunter S. Thompson would love this book."
– Salman Rushdie
“Before I started reading, I glanced over the table of contents. The first chapter is called ‘Seeking Homeostasis in Inherent Hypocrisy.’ I rolled my eyes and said aloud to no one, “fuuuck you.” Then, I read it, and it turns out it’s a goddamned novel for the ages. A straight-up masterwork, more relevant to this very moment than anything I’ve seen. Tom Robbins, Mark Twain, E.E. Cummings and Billy Bragg all just came in Chuck Bukowski’s pants. Whether it’s your cuppa tea is something I cannot know. But sweet Jesus it was mine.”