Book clubs can be cliquey. I know, I’m in one—even though I wouldn’t call “The Muffia” an uber cliquey group by a long stretch. Still, anything with the word “club” in it suggests the reason it’s a club (and not a class or block association) is there’s some exclusivity. In other words, not just anyone can join. So last week as I was heading to a book club gathering in a pocket of LA a few over from mine, I had some trepidation. There was only one woman in the club whom I knew and, that said, I didn’t know her all that well. However, I’d always found her to be a lovely woman—kind and generous and not the type of person to point me into an ambush. Karen is a mom and yoga teacher with a great sense of humor—Muff material for sure. So I hoped her club would be as welcoming as she was. This was to be my first appearance at a book club for my new, eponymously named book, The Muffia, about my own book club, whose members get themselves into more than a few compromising positions so I was extremely curious about how a different, non-Muff club, would relate to the story.
Shortly after arriving, a glass of wine thrust into my hand and already feeling comfortable with this group of attractive, well-dressed women, I decided to address the circling elephant and announced that I wanted total honesty about how the members felt about The Muffia. The real life Muffs disagree on books quite regularly. In fact, there’s never a meeting where one of us doesn’t like something about our latest read. So that’s what I expected from Karen’s club. Actually I can’t really call it Karen’s club because the members defer to a smoldering dark redhead named Dana (who reminded me of Blaze Star) as the “Boss.” Why she was the boss was unclear but I didn’t ask; internal book club machinations being beyond my purview. The point is, I expected a few of the women to have some “constructive criticism” and I wanted them to speak freely—just as they would if I hadn’t been there. This seemed to put them at ease and set off an immediate rant about a prior book club selection, Patty Smith’s Just Friends, which as it happens the Muffs read too. But whereas we (in general) loved it, Karen/Dana’s club pretty much reviled it except for Karen who had selected it and who had constructed a small shrine for Patty in her living room. The fact that Karen had picked the hated Just Friends as well as The Muffia suffused me with dread. Was Karen the book club member who chose the books nobody liked?
I smiled, come what may, reasoning that as an author—hell, as a person—I will never please everybody, so I shouldn’t bother trying. But knowing that The Muffia is a planned series of books, and that I’ve only completed Book I, I was in the singular position of having this (and other book clubs I speak to) help me as I write books II-VII. There’s a saying I generally detest, “It’s All Good,” but in this situation, it was true. Anything they told me would be grist for the mill of my mind. Not only did I want to know what they really thought, I also wanted to mine them for material.
This group didn’t disappoint on any level. As Karen served a delicious meal, the group told me they wanted more of Vicki, less of Lila with Madeline’s vibrator and details about Nate’s affair. Most enjoyed the read and found more similarities with their counterparts in the book, than differences. Somewhere between dinner and Karen’s decadent dessert dubbed “Sex in a Pan” (destined to be a Muff favorite), we left The Muffia behind and segued into the stories women who are comfortable with each other share. There was a member’s recent trip to Hawaii and an incident in which she was encouraged to behave like a big cat, brought on by her husband’s positive response to one little blue pill. All appeared shocked that one hit of Viagra was $50 but it seemed too many of them knew where to get it at a discount not to have had personal experience. I’ll stop there to spare the group any possible repercussions but suffice it to say, these ladies talk about all the stuff the Muffs talk about and they made me feel included and comfortable. The evening was over way too quickly—each of the women needing to get home to take care of children, husbands, pets and hearths. Each of the women had come, given, and received the jolt of energy, support, and encouragement that we get from each other and, just as in The Muffia, whatever book they read is beside the point. We come together to share life. Affirmed. Thank you, Karen, and thank you to her club, for having me.
Karen has graciously provided the recipe for “Sex in a Pan” and I print it here.
Sex in a Pan
Combine: 1 cup flour, ½ cup chopped pecans, 1 stick softened butter.
Pack this into a 9 x 13 inch pan and bake 15-25 minutes at 350 degrees until light brown. Cool. Then:
Combine: 8 oz. cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 cup Cool Whip and spread onto the cooled crust. Then:
Combine: 2 boxes of instant chocolate pudding* with 3 cups of milk. Beat for 2 minutes and spread on top of the cream cheese mixture, then spread 1 cup Cool Whip on top and if desired, decorate the top. (Karen said she ran out of time but she was going to put a big pink M on it.)
* If desired, you can use butterscotch or lemon or some other concoction of your choice in place of the chocolate pudding