Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff: Sean Penn’s Exit from Hollywood?

In his career Sean Penn has been no stranger to controversy or courting the media; while also trying to keep them at arms length. His foray into literature with his new novel, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, Penn continues his gravitational push-pull with both. The book has been called dystopian, controversial for the sake of controversy, and a personal venting. It has also been called hilariously funny, provocative, and compared to the writings of authors like, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Tom Robbins, and E. E. Cummings. All of these authors are unarguably literary superstars, a bit madcap, and completely unafraid of putting their words out there for the world. Certainly not bad company to keep.

Recently Penn has been doing a book tour and interviews to promote, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff. The interviews have provided a peak behind the curtain into Penn’s thoughts on leaving the film industry, his ongoing humanitarian efforts, and the current political climate of the United States.

Penn has often tried to keep focus off of himself and on the work, so his reaction to questions about Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, that try to dig deeper than the work, and into the creator, mostly go unanswered; to no great surprise. He prefers not to discuss the comparisons to other writers work, but rather encourages people to read the book, if they are so inclined, and come to their own judgement if the comparisons are valid.


He did discuss part of his process though. He abandoned his screenplay writing habit of locking himself away with an old manual typewriter for this creative endeavor. Instead, the book was mostly written through dictation. He would work through the night, riffing, talking through the story of the book, and in the morning hand the recording off to his assistant to type up. This freed him up to work faster and make connections in the story that he doesn’t think would have happened if he was stuck with his fingers trying to keep up with his mind.

An interesting point that Penn made when discussing the anti-brand message that is intertwined with plot in Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, and how it fit in Penn’s brand, was that if he does have a brand, in the public’s perception it is probably a brand that is always in crisis. This stuck out as another moment that Penn as a creator is more humble and self-effacing than people probably realize. Perhaps with this novel, and the move away from Hollywood, we will get more unfiltered glimpses into Penn the person, and his fears for the future of the country, for the future of humanity, and the impact one person, fictional or not, can have on it all.