Sean Penn May or May Not Be Author of New Audiobook

Photo: CBS Photo Archive (Getty).

Sean Penn appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night to plug a new audiobook, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, written by first-time author Pappy Pariah and read by Penn. It will be available for free download on Audible beginning Oct. 18.

Bob Honey Who Just Do StuffPenn, in his trademark oddball style, told Colbert that he met Pariah in 1979 at The Passion Pit Bar at The Lavender Fawn in Key West, Florida. (“That sounds made up,” Colbert interrupted. “This is all going to sound made up,” Penn said.) After mistaking Pariah for a “terrible” piece of artwork, the two began chatting. “He was speaking a lot of acronyms, and some in metaphor, slangs, scientific terms,” Penn told Colbert. The actor mentioned that his mother made greeting cards, which “fascinated” Pariah. Tired of the small talk, Penn offered to give Pariah his mother’s address as a way of ending the conversation. Penn never saw Pariah again, but he says Pariah followed up with Penn’s mother and she sold Pariah “about 500” greeting cards.

Earlier this year, Penn says he received a phone call from his mother; she’d received what appeared to be fan mail for Penn. The actor told her to throw it away, but she said the sender’s name–Pappy Pariah–sounded familiar. Inside the envelope was a manuscript and a request from Pariah asking Penn to be the “executor” of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff. Despite being something of a Luddite, Penn found himself inking a deal with the audiobook app Audible for the book’s release. “It’s the New Age of literature,” Penn told Colbert, “because you want people to have information. I clearly want people to have this information ’cause what I read was something that I felt was important for people to hear, now. He demanded it be before the election.”

The story takes place in present-day, politically tumultuous America. Bob Honey is the middle-aged Californian man who believes he’s uniquely qualified to change this country’s course based on his humanitarian work in post-Katrina New Orleans as well as emergency sewage work in Baghdad, Beirut, and South Sudan. According to the book’s flap copy, Honey “just might be able to save us from the oncoming horror.”

Absurd and implausible as that may sound, the narrative is likely to be entertaining, given the glowing blurbs from comedians Bill Maher and Jon Stewart. “It’s a Clockwork Orange world on Adderall,” film producer and author Art Linson is quoted as saying on the book’s Audible page.

Clearly, questions remain. Who is Pappy Pariah? Is Bob Honey based on Penn? Is Pariah Penn’s nom de plume? (The author and the actor share a birth year, 1960.) You’ll have to decide for yourself after hearing the audiobook. Or, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, you could try to interrogate Penn himself when he appears at LACMA for a staged reading of the book on Oct. 6.

Whether publicity stunt or the honest-to-goodness process of publishing, one thing’s for sure: Sean Penn continues to be stranger than fiction.