Sean Penn’s debut novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff doesn’t hold back on veiled allegory. Excerpts of the satire have been seized on by U.S. and UK media outlets ahead of the book’s publication, not least for the novel’s portrayal of a U.S. President who is elected by “raging” Americans (and Russians), has an unhealthy obsession with Twitter and an uncanny ability to spark furious marches by women around the world. It also more darkly describes the U.S. as “a nation in need of an assassin.”
The novel charts the story of Bob Honey, a “modern American man, entrepreneur and contract killer who sells septic tanks to Jehovah’s Witnesses and arranges pyrotechnic displays for foreign dictators.” Chased by an investigative journalist, Honey decides to take back control of his life from the intelligence service who is covertly employing him as an assassin.
In one scene, Honey writes a letter to the U.S. president, named Mr Landlord. “Many wonderful American people in pain and rage elected you. Many Russians did, too. Your position is an asterisk accepted as literally as your alternative facts. Though the office will remain real, you never were nor will be. A million women so dwarfed your penis-edency on the streets of Washington and around the world on the day of your piddly inauguration … You are not simply a president of impeachment, you are a man in need of an intervention. We are not simply a people in need of an intervention, we are a nation in need of an assassin … Tweet me bitch, I dare you.”
Honey recounts stories about working with military contractors in Iraq, being employed by the government to kill off the nation’s elderly population, and meeting an El Chapo-like drug lord [Penn famously met Mexican crime boss El Chapo in 2015]. The book is also understood to feature a poem in which the protagonist calls the #MeToo movement “an infantilising term of the day.” “Is this a toddlers’ crusade? Reducing rape, slut-shaming and suffrage to reckless child’s play? A platform for accusation impunity? Due process has lost its sheen?.”
Penn first released the gonzo journalism-style novel as an audiobook in 2016 under the pseudonym ‘Pappy Pariah’. The actor and activist has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s Presidency, calling the commander in chief “an enemy of mankind” in an opinion piece for Time magazine in January.