“Bob Honey Who Do Stuff”: A new form of expression for Sean Penn

Sean Penn is best known as an actor but those days may be behind him. His debut novel, “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff,” was recently released in prose format after coming out in audio book form in 2016. Penn- also the original narrator of the audio book- has said in interviews with Rolling Stone and CBS that he has “fallen out of love” with acting.

Asked to clarify what he doesn’t like about films anymore he responded that he, at 57, no longer enjoys collaboration, a vital part of making movies. It is Penn’s intention to follow “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff” with more novels, though he is not certain if he will actually publish them or just write them for his own satisfaction.

Though controversial the book has been selling well. Much of the controversy seems to stem from two things: A perceived attack on the #MeToo movement and a violent protagonist. The protagonist, Bob, has many jobs in the novel, most notably and controversially that he professionally kills elderly people with a mallet.

Many readers have had difficulty understanding this aspect of the character. Bob, in the book, is often associated with Penn himself. Bob’s politics are a copy of Penn’s and many feel that Penn is the protagonist, something he doesn’t totally agree or disagree with. In “Bob Honey Who Do Stuff” Penn claims there is no real deeper meaning to his novel. He repeatedly tells Rolling Stone that the book should be looked at for what it is, and that reading too deeply into the narrative as an expression of how he sees himself. He does admit that much of what angers Bob in the novel are things that bother him but as he says more than once, “Fiction can’t just be read as it is.” This line is used to describe his epilogue, where the perceived attack on #MeToo is to be found. Without clarifying the meaning in his interviews Penn does state that it was an out-of-context quote that people are misunderstanding.

Penn did not intentionally obfuscate his politics either. He says the novel was based on where he sees the country right now. Trump is not mentioned by name but several parts of the book are clearly designed to make the reader think of Trump.

Much of the narrative is considered stream-of-consciousness in the vein of Hunter S.Thompson and Thomas Pynchon. Penn denies any conscious influence from those authors but the comparisons are still very common.