Welcome back, my dear readers, to our march through the pages of Sean Penn’s Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff. Previous installments (parts one, two, and three) have introduced us to our racist, millennial-hating, women-despising protagonist and the understatedly wacky adventures he gets into across the globe. Let us continue forward and see what Bob gets up to in the penultimate leg of our trek.
Station Ten: Ballad of a Broken Man
We’re told right off the bat that the following chapters comprise”Part 2″ of the novel, offering a faint glimmer of hope that we might be building to something. Station ten starts off with Bob having just finished his walk from station eight and remembering the good times he had on a cocaine lord’s party yacht in station nine. Spurley Cultier comes to call once again, this time having spoken to Bob’s still-unnamed ex-wife. He offers Bob a popsicle from the woman’s ice-cream truck. “As Spurley sloppily slurps at one of the popsicles, Bob can’t help remembering similarly slopping sounds made by the woman who graces its package” (88). Spurley explains that, per the ex-wife, she and Bob actually ended their marriage amicably, and for all we know this could be true. Bob expresses his misgivings with Spurley’s investigation, saying “I don’t want to be Esutance Conway-ed” (91). The book does not explain what this means, but after some research I can confirm that Conway is a man who lives in the North Carolinian woods and was once arrested for trespassing after becoming the subject of a History Channel documentary.
Bob spirals into a rant about society in general, concluding with: “You know how and why Bob’s gonna die? […] With a blowtorch to my genitals and a foreign, or non-foreign, cock in my mouth because my fellow American chickenshits will just stand by, even the few graveside to cry. Peace, love and understanding never did squat for anyone born un-blind. […] I tell you this because I love you. –Simply Georgia, 1658” (91). Bob concludes everything by bidding Spurley adieu permanently: “I don’t want to be Eustace Conway with a reality show. I don’t have a message to promote, Spurley. […] You might as well write your ballad of the broken man [Penn’s italics] without me” (94). Spurley leaves and the station ends.
After Helen Mayo, Spurley is the second character seemingly written out of the book before they really did anything. Considering how much Spurley was hyped when we first met him, this is something of a disappointment. The silver lining is the “I tell you this because I love you” line and Bob’s foretelling of his own death. Perhaps my fervent prayers that Bob Honey is made into a tragical Christ figure will be answered after all!
Station Eleven: Mein Drumpf
I suppose we all knew this was coming: a self-righteous take-down of Donald Trump. I was intrigued to see how this goes, considering the similar views held by the president and this text vis-a-vis women and minorities. Bob starts by pondering (again) his lack of purpose in life, realizing “It was no longer enough,/to just/do//stuff [Penn’s line breaks]” (98). This contemplative station takes us from religion/Anne (“Bob was no shaman. Never heard the voice of God. But man, that Anne could get into his head something good” (98)), to gun control (“It seemed to [Bob] that words are as lethal as any weapon” (98)) to the man himself (“Criminal crumbs and corresponding celebrity crusts, bound together by dough. Together they make a mockery of mockery mimicking mystery, and this Bob surmises is the only reasonable explanation for the bloated blond high priest and pavonine of branding” (99)). After this, Bob abruptly veers into thinking about space: “Bob liked Jupiter” (100). Considering there are only two lines about Trump himself in this station, I feel it has been misnamed; personally, I feel cheated.
Abruptly, Bob decides to host a barbecue for everyone in his neighborhood. He buys supplies, sets up food , and mails invitations out. Unsurprisingly, nobody comes. Instead, the entire neighborhood attends Helen Mayo’s funeral, which happens to fall on the same day. Bob does not seem to give much thought to the fact that he wasn’t invited to Helen’s funeral, nor that his barbecue now sends entirely the wrong message. Bob is instead comforted by Anne’s voice in his head: “It’s a start, Bob-beam. You gave it a go” (104). The station closes with Bob listening to singer Phil Ochs, whom he seems to idolize.
Station Twelve: Harking Back: Drifting and Decomposed
Bob remembers when he was stranded in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, he executed a contract on the aged populace of the Ascension Parish of Louisiana. Except for the unspecified location of station one, I don’t believe any of Bob’s hits for the Scottsdale Project have actually occurred in Arizona. Perhaps this is the point, but I’m not inclined to give the author that much credit. In an American Red Cross shelter, Bob happens across “a drunk young female volunteer, lipstick smeared on her teeth” (107). He refuses her offer of a beverage and nothing comes of their encounter; I bring it up because it’s the third time (after his ex-wife and the cocaine lord’s girlfriend) that we’ve met a woman with lipstick smeared on her teeth. Perhaps Bob’s universe doesn’t have mirrors?
In the shelter, Bob learns that “a large nursing home had reportedly been remiss to rescuers. Bob sensed an emerging opportunity. Given the force of the storm, and the number of organic projectiles at its peak, there would be ample cover to claim concussive injuries. Bob was deployed” (108). Bob is disappointed, however, as the nursing home proves to be empty, bereft of innocent elders for him to murder. I feel obligated to point out that the nursing home was not his original contract assignment, and presumably he would not have gotten paid for any additional kills. The jury is still out on whether Bob has actually gone beyond killing for money and now does it for fun, or if the entire Scottsdale Project is a figment of his imagination, created as an excuse for him to beat old people to death without remorse.
All in all, I found these chapters supremely disappointing. They’re a retread of everything we’ve heard before: Bob has no purpose, boo millennials, boo conservatives, Bob must find a purpose, boo mainstream liberals, hate women, love Anne, etc. Furthermore, they don’t come close to the absurdity (in scene or dialog) to the rest of the book, with the shining exception of Bob predicting his own death by genital mutilation/fellatio. As we near the final chapters, I find myself nursing a concern that the Penn outrageousness, the novel’s only enjoyable facet, is starting to run dry.