The Oscar-winner’s first fictional book, titled Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, is an expanded version of his 2016 audiobook of the same name, which he claimed was written by a mysterious figure named Poppy Pariah.
The novel version of the audiobook, which was released on Tuesday, loses the Pariah backstory and adds a few chapters to the short but complicated tale of a disaffected divorcé named Bob Honey who works as a part-time assassin and septic tank salesman.
In one new addition to the story, Honey writes a letter to the book’s fictional president, Mr. Landlord, who seems to be a thinly veiled representation of Donald Trump.
“You are not simply a president in need of impeachment, you are a man in need of an intervention,” Honey writes in the letter. “We are not simply a people in need of an intervention, we are a nation in need of an assassin.”
The letter, which also references Russian election meddling, “alternative facts” and the Women’s March, ends with Honey challenging Mr. Landlord to a dual, before threatening, “Tweet me … I dare you.”
Penn has been a longtime critic of the president, whom he called “an enemy of mankind” in an op-ed for Time in January, which came in response to Trump allegedly labeling certain nations in South America and Africa as “s—hole countries” in an Oval Office meeting.
Reviews for Penn’s novel have been shaky at best. While famed novelist Salman Rushdie called it “great fun to read” ahead of its release, many reviews have been negative. For example, the Washington Post wrote that Penn should “never quit his day job,” while The New York Times observed that the book eventually “induces something like Stockholm syndrome — you admire the novel just because you’re surviving it.”
The actor promoted the novel Tuesday with a strange appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he admitted that he was still shaking off the effects of a sedative.
“I’m doing well. You’ve inherited a little of the Ambien I had to take to get to sleep after a red-eye last night,” Penn told Colbert at the start of his sit-down.
“So in other words, you’re still a little bit on the Ambien train right now?” the host asked. Penn responded, “A little bit,” and proceeded to light one of the two cigarettes he smoked during his short interview.
Fans and viewers quickly took notice of Penn’s smoking on TV and shared their reactions on Twitter with many expressing bewilderment.
“Sean Penn is looking a little disheveled while #chainsmoking on #colbert,” one user tweeted.
Though his smoking garnered attention on social media, another interview moment was much-talked-about — this time in a more positive light.
“Within days of that not only are they stating their case with incredible sobriety and articulate words but in such an inclusionary way. You feel like there are reasonable people who have been on the other side of this conversation who will listen to these kids,” he told Colbert, later nodding when asked if the students “give him hope.”
Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff is available now.