Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn’s latest project, the novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, is his first foray into fiction writing. A shorter version of this story was first released as an audiobook in 2016 under the pseudonym Pappy Pariah with Penn providing the narration. The expanded satirical novel features a freewheeling plot that is again narrated by Pappy Pariah and offers commentary on our current times. The story is centered on the titular Bob Honey, a divorced middle-aged man who has held a number of jobs throughout his strange life – fireworks salesman to dictators, sewage expert, carnival worker, and secret government assassin targeting members of society who over-consume resources.
The stream-of-consciousness structure of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff follows the main character on his many adventures around the world. Outraged at modern society, Honey lives in a quiet Californian suburb, where he disturbs his neighbors with his strange behavior. After a number of complaints are made against Honey, an investigative journalist comes by to write an article about him. With the 2016 presidential election taking place in the background, the novel runs through surreal episodes of Honey’s life, including scenes at a dystopian Republican National Convention and a yacht party held by a drug dealer named Fletcher.
The last part of the novel includes a letter cum manifesto to the president of the United States, who is referred to as “Mr. Landlord” with thinly veiled allusions to the current occupant of the White House. Honey rages against the illegitimacy and narcissism of Mr. Landlord and expounds on the many issues of the day, including “alternative facts” and the NRA, before culminating in a call for assassination. Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff ends with an epilogue poem that addresses many recent events such as the Las Vegas shooting, the #MeToo movement, and tensions with North Korea. The poem offers more excoriating words on our current political and social climate.
The public reception of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff has been mixed. A lot of the criticism has centered on Penn’s writing style and overuse of alliteration. There is also an unavoidable conflation between the political views of Bob Honey and Penn, who is an outspoken public figure who has offered his share of political and cultural commentary over the years. The character of Fletcher, in particular, is unmistakably drawn from the real-life El Chapo, the infamous Mexican drug lord whom Penn once interviewed for a magazine article. Penn has acknowledged the divisive nature of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff and stated that the novel is not for everyone.