Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: Dear Committee Members by Julia Schumacher

From Goodreads:
Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby

In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.
Writing
This book was laugh-out-loud hilarious.  I loved the novelty of the story being told through the letters of recommendation our narrator is forced to write for various co-workers and students.  I'm all about a good epistolary novel and this one was perfection!  I thought it was witty and fun and wished it was twice as long - which is probably a good sign that it's just the right length.  Always better to wish for more of a book than to wish for less, right?

Entertainment Value
Again, hilarious.  I think it will especially appeal to anyone in academia, anyone who attended a small liberal arts school, and anyone who majored in English.  I loved the budget cuts the English department faced, while the Economics department lived in the lap of luxury - during my senior year as an English major, my department had to deal with the effects of the Business School's fancy new building being built - while we met in conference rooms or professor's homes.

Overall
I can't say enough about how funny this book is and what a blast it is to read.  I do, however, think that it may have a limited appeal - those who have no English/Creative Writing in their background and who haven't worked in academia may not find it as humorous.  It's full of in-jokes about working in a college, dealing with Millennial students, and the liberal arts/humanities setting.

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