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 ... The story is convoluted, sure, and occasionally surreal, but that’s part of the book’s almost immeasurable charm.
Is it needlessly cynical to read a pompous celebrity’s very bad novel purely in order to dunk on it? Yes. But the true joke is on me, because it’s physically impossible to dunk on a novel that is already dunking on itself so hard. Bob Honey is an exercise in ass-showing, a 160-page self-own ... Nothing hangs together. 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 ... Scattered throughout is the sort of gleeful racism and misogyny that qualifies Penn’s work as 'darkly comic' ... It’s not often that you read a literary novel about which the most flattering adjective you might use is 'derivative,' but such is the case here ... This is all, apparently, supposed to seem deeply witty and profound. Instead, it’s akin to the product of a postmodern literature bot. It doesn’t seem quite possible that a human person wrote this mess.
[T]his is not a review of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, because it is not a book that deserves to be taken seriously enough to be reviewed ... In a fair world, writing would be left to those of us who aren’t stars, but the world isn’t obligated to be fair. Penn’s book, on the other hand, is an insult. Without Penn’s fame, it never would have seen the light of day. It reads like a purely cynical exercise, from its conception, execution, publication, to that blurb from Rushdie ... he has soaked up valuable real estate at book reviewing outlets, which does crowd out a chance for readers to become familiar with actually worthy work. And here I am, spending my weekly words on Penn, rather than telling you about terrific new books like Don't Skip Out on Me by Wily Vlautin, Sunburn by Laura Lippman, Laura and Emma by Kate Greathead, and The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman. Do better than me. Ignore Penn. Read them instead.