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  • John M Donovan

Fluffball! Reading Group Guide

I recently finished reading Darktown by Thomas Mullen, and recommend it highly to fans of mysteries and police procedurals. I mention it here because it’s one of a handful of books I’ve read recently that have a reading group guide in the back, essentially a list of questions and topics designed to spark discussion among book club members.


Of course this made me feel bad for all the book clubs who have read Fluffball! and had to come up with their own questions and topics. The number of such clubs is zero, of course, but in the event that some reading group wants to tackle a satire of professional sports that moves, according to a judge in the 2021 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards competition, “like a fast break,” I am pleased to offer this reading group guide for Fluffball!


Questions for Discussion


1. What exactly is going on in this novel?


2. In the introduction, the author says the novel would not exist if he hadn’t read Ball Four by Jim Bouton and The Great American Novel by Philip Roth. Have you read these books? If so, do you know what he’s talking about? If not, should we put these on our list?


3. In a world where the best-seller lists are bereft of sports satires, what do you think motivated the author to write Fluffball!? Do you think anyone would care if the exclamation mark wasn’t considered part of the title?


4. Just to make sure we're all on the same page, what exactly is going on in this novel?


5. Compare and contrast the character of Don Gooding in Fluffball! to the character of Michael Henchard in Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge. Anyone? Fine, let’s move on to the next question.


6. The narrative never says definitively if Tzu Han Tzu is really more than 1,300 years old. What do you think? Is he truly that old? If not, what is the point? If so, what do you suppose Tzu’s diet regimen might be? He drinks a “gargantuan 7-Up” (p. 167) so it must not be keto.


7. The character Michael Donovan has a name very similar to the author’s. Do you think this is intentional? Wait—who said “Duh”? That’s sort of the whole point of the novel? Really? Shoot.


8. Is anyone else too warm? Do you need me to turn down the thermostat?


9. At Parker Hill’s comeback appearance, Foam Basketball Association Hall of Famer Frank Eaton tries to sell his colleagues on a multi-level marketing pyramid scheme (p. 308). Is anyone involved in one of these? If so, there’s the door.


10. Seriously, what the hell is going on in this novel?



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Let’s talk about appositives.* To be more specific, let’s talk about appositives and why the hell so many “writers” in the fields of PR and journalism don’t know how to punctuate them. (Uh-oh. He put