Last year a group of us decided to do a book club and damn did we have fun.
What we planned for was to have a series of books we would enjoy and talk about, but what we got was a true test of our friendship. And guess what! The friendship survived. The book club is on for another year and now we are called the BorkClub (we were the “Guzoids” at one point 😊 ). But, in order to celebrate a year of torture, we decided to finish the year off with a bang. We decided to do a Secret Satan.
We each chose a book for one other member of the club, and this book had to be a true pain for that person. I gave a Covid Erotic novel to a Literature PhD person. God how I laughed. But then I got my book. And damn it all, it hurt even more. I got the mother of all bad books: a pretentious book written by a movie star. Yeeeeeey.
To say that I gave this book 1 star would be overstating it. I forced myself to read it through and I got to the other side stronger. After this book, there’s nothing that the publishing industry could throw at me that I wouldn’t be able to finish. (except perhaps for this book’s sequel. Yes, there is a sequel.)
Sean Penn, a well-known normal movie star, wrote a book that was published in 2018 that is a critique of something, I’m sure. All I got was a feeling that he wanted to spew comments on the society but felt that his twitter presence was not enough. This book reads more like a series of comments written on pieces of toilet paper padded with a thesaurus.
The book’s protagonist is the titular Bob, and the plot is the titular him doing stuff. We follow Bob around as a secret government agency pays him to hammer people to death. I guess. I’m not sure. His neighbours think he’s strange and report him to the police, but this strangeness leaves no real evidence, it’s just that feeling the people have. And Americans being Americans and having yelled “Woolf” too many times, nobody pays real attention to their accusations. And that’s that. I forgot to mention that the idea behind his assassinations is to reduce the carbon footprint of the society by killing the elderly. Fun.
We also find out he is a divorcé and that his ex-wife is a crazy person who now owns an ice cream truck. We see him hang around with a Jew on a boat and then the two of them join a drug lord’s yacht party. So many fun things. Oh, and there’s a journalist who suspects something.
All this is delivered in a pretentious attempt at “bizarro” style that is almost impossible to read. This is something Chuck Palahniuk does masterfully – this style where the writing constantly puts a spotlight on itself. But Penn is no Chuck. Where Chuck sprinkles the weird writing to make the weird story seem nestled in all the weird and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy even when he is talking about spiking a guy’s food and drinks with hormone therapy, here we just have off putting thesaurus bashing.
Listen to this:
“Here it seems that the desert itself has been deserted.”
“Behind the windows of the beige stucco building that sits behind a dilapidated, sporadically visited parking lot where brown weeds burst through fissures in pavement…”
“Ah, but when these considerations tickle the tumult of actionability, only then does he relinquish their delicious danger, and find himself buoyantly liberated to move away from the definitively empty bed.”
“He thought of her beauty and the lure of her shaved and shapely cinnamon sticks standing at the trailer’s screen door.”
“Dreams died like destiny’s deadwood.” (what a missed opportunity here, if he’s only written “Destiny’s Child”)
Now all of this would be enough to make one stop reading. But I didn’t have that luxury, I had to go on. And boy did the fun continue.
In addition to this writing “style” there were moments when even he realized that this might be a problem for some of his readers. So, Penn decided to help the poor sod who was reading this because of idolizing the author (that’s the only person I see finishing this book without having a gun pressed against their head). Whenever there was a turn of phrase, he used that might confuse the intellectually limited reader, Penn graciously helped them by providing freaking FOOTNOTES. Some were ok, I guess. But come on.
“The five-sided puzzle palace had an autonomous private contracting budget” –> the Pentagon.
“As you were.” –> standard military command (no shit Sherlock! Who doesn’t know that?
“…he has started calculating the g/km of his burnings” –> grams per kilometre (I know Americans are perceived as being stupid, but that stupid?)
Now, ok, you might say this is the narrator, not the Author. I don’t buy that.
And to finish it off we have:
- Random stereotyping of Jews and the way their talk
- Completely not random western view of the Muslim world
- Every woman being insupportable receptacle for his penis but with smeared lipstick on her teeth.
- A completely disconnected anti-Trump rant that came out of the blue.
- Bob making a woman laugh so much she keeled over, and a bit of poop got out of her and wetness could be seen between her buttocks.
I KNOW!!!!! I KNOW!
Now, to some more memorable quotes
“A driver drives.”
“With that, he absquatulated.”
“a fugitive from Jordan who’d fled a case of fraud.”
If you’re wondering, wow, this is so bad I might just have to read it, just don’t. Read 50shades of grey books, or the Covid Erotica I mentioned at the beginning, or even bad fanfiction. Anything but this. Or you could just read a thesaurus – the same amount of fun, but you won’t end up hating yourself.