by Tim Sandlin
Published by Putnam
352 pages, 2003
How to Blow the Presidency
Reviewed by David Abrams
As Hillary Clinton's memoir, Living History, rides the crest of a publicity wave near the top of the bestseller lists, along comes Tim Sandlin's Honey Don't, a sleek torpedo of a novel which unabashedly satirizes the hazards of Presidential oral sex. There are no cigars, stained dresses or debates about the word "is," but there is a deadly sex scene which includes a cast-iron flamingo, a jealous boyfriend and thong underwear wrapped around the President's ankles as he's running from said boyfriend and the aforementioned flamingo smacks his head "with a sound like a shovel coming down on a day-old wedding cake." Oops.
Not that Honey Don't will torpedo any holes in Hillary's hull, but for an unvarnished look at sex and politics, it is undoubtedly the more interesting read. Depending on how you look at it, it's also the funnier of the two books. Also depending on your view (wide-eyed naiveté or squinty skepticism), the novel could be truer and more sincere.
Honey Don't pulls no punches, takes no prisoners and busts every gut with well-earned laughter. If you like your books loud and fast -- like a pinball hitting all the buzzers -- this is the one for you.
It's the kind of raucous, screwball story which might have been penned by a committee comprised of Mel Brooks, Art Buchwald, Carl Hiassen and the Farrelly Brothers. Instead, it goes that committee one better: it's written by Tim Sandlin (Sex and Sunsets, Skipped Parts) whose previous novels turned sex on its ear in Wyoming. Sandlin has a small but loyal fan club of readers; Honey Don't could be the breakout book to earn him a larger audience.
This time around, Sandlin moves his libidinous circus east to the nation's capitol. The ringmistress is the eponymous Honey DuPont but don't judge the book by the name:
Texas men just love strapping their daughter to names that force them into a lifetime of being Daddy's Little Girl. In Honey's senior class, back at Odessa Permian High, there had been three Missys, two Sugars, a Candy, a Brandy, a Pumpkin, an actual Baby, and countless PeggyMaryDebbieAlliePammyCindy Sues -- enough Bleepy Sues to start a volleyball team. Nobody takes a woman named Sugar or Pumpkin seriously, and that is exactly why so many West Texas crackers name their daughters after high-caloric food. Honeys make wonderful cheerleaders, but what happens to them after the prom?
While I can't say for sure what happens to those other sweet little ole thangs from Texas, but the story's Honey winds up in a whole heap of trouble after she fellates POTUS which leads to his untimely death caused by Honey's boyfriend, Jimmy Sebastiano, which ultimately leads to the aforementioned chief executive's head in a duffel bag while Jimmy and Honey are on the run from the Secret Service and the Mafia. Honey is a cool, confident character who plays her femininity for all it's worth. She drips sex like most people drip water when they emerge from the shower.
Kissing her is something akin to a religious experience: It was good -- soft, sweet, fresh as clean air. No bells or whistles, but it must have been romantic, because RC found himself nauseous.
Is it any wonder she caught the eye of President Charles Franklin and snagged his horndog libido during a late-night encounter in Starbucks? Soon, the Prez is ducking the Secret Service and doing the wild thing with Honey at her apartment. That's when Jimmy, an inept Mafia bagman, bursts in and things go bad with the cast-iron flamingo. The two spend the rest of the novel on the run from the law and the mob who are trying to collect the $656,000 of dirty money Jimmy's carrying around in a briefcase. Through a series of plot twists and kinks, Jimmy and Honey are joined by burned-out reporter RC Nash and Farlow Stubbs, a gay defensive back for the Redskins. The periphery of the novel is crowded with characters from Central Casting's Department of Quirk.
For all its raunchy sex, blazing bullets and political vulgarities, Honey Don't is, at heart, about sweet, romantic love. Though Sandlin comes at it with a cockeyed cynicism, there's ultimately something very tender at the core of the book.
Sandlin writes with a breezy efficiency which makes Honey Don't one of the fastest entertainments of this literary season. Fans of the author's previous Wyoming-based comedies will applaud the new direction he's taken, while first-time Sandlin readers will be won over in less time than it takes to say "Oval Office." | July 2003
David Abrams is a January Magazine contributing editor. He has written for Esquire, Glimmer Train Stories, The Greensboro Review, The Readerville Journal and other literary magazines.