Entertainment & Arts

Sean Penn's debut novel is trashed by critics

Sean Penn Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Penn is the Oscar-winning star of Mystic River and Milk

Sean Penn has written his first novel and it probably won't be going down as the best book ever written.

Critics have slated Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, which is about a hitman working for US intelligence.

The book also references a fictional president, who is described as a "violently immature 70-year-old boy-man".

It concludes with an epilogue that calls the #MeToo movement "a toddler's crusade".

"Cloaked in crazy"

Publicity for the novel describes Bob Honey as a "contract killer for an off-the-books program[me] run by a branch of US intelligence that targets the elderly, the infirm and others who drain this consumption-driven society of its resources."

It has been described by the New York Times as "a riddle wrapped in an enigma and cloaked in crazy". In his review, Jeff Giles says he had to "survive" reading the novel.

This was also reflected by The Huffington Post, whose critic Claire Fallon writes: "It's physically impossible to dunk on a novel that is already dunking on itself so hard."

Critics were keen to pick up on Mr Landlord, a character that could be a thinly veiled dig at Donald Trump.

He is described as a "violently immature 70-year-old boy-man with money and French vanilla cotton candy hair".

Writing for Entertainment Weekly, David Canfield tries to explain Penn's reasoning.

"Penn, like Bob, is a Baby Boomer, and it's hard not to read the book as his loud, angry, absurdist response to the state of the world," he writes.

The book also switches, without warning, between poetry and prose, while the epilogue contains an entire poem.

It calls #MeToo the "infantilising term of the day" and asks where all the "laughs" have gone.

Not everyone was disappointed with the book. British novelist Sir Salman Rushdie is quoted as saying it was "great fun to read".

Penn, 57, won Oscars for his roles in Mystic River and Milk and also starred in such films as Dead Man Walking and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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