Featured Post

Happy 6th Birthday, SPR!

As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dear Committee Members: A Novel

For my birthday, which is today (HAPPY ME DAY!), I am choosing to discuss with you one of the most amazing books I have read this year: Julie Schumacher's Dear Committee Members

Jason Fitger is a professor of English at a small university, Payne, somewhere in the Midwest. He spends the bulk of his time teaching and writing letters of recommendation for students and colleagues for a myriad of positions. His office is situated right next to the men's room which just happens to be in disarray due to the multi-trillion dollar upstairs renovation of the Economics department (better funded, perhaps?). His personal life is a mess, his last few novels have been bombs at best, and he just needs to get his advisee funded so he will stop living off the dregs of catered lunches. All in an academic day's work.

"Laugh out loud" is not an appropriate description for this book. I guffawed. I howled. I even snorted at one point on the subway. This book was so on point and so true to academic life that it is frightening. And funny. So very, awesomely funny. Jason Fitger is a character I know and avoid, someone who is so curmudgeonly that you know if you need to ask him something you will get a rant about anything else than what you need. He is the colleague you avoid but can't stop inflaming because it's just so much fun to watch him go--because when he goes, he goes.

He writes way too many letters of recommendation (LOR, if you will) and he is a firm believer in written correspondence--even to his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend. By written correspondence I mean more LOR's and other requests. This novel is epistolary, and Schumacher couldn't tell the story any other way. She infuses this form with humor that is so pitch-perfect that even non-academics will laugh at the ensuing drama in Jason's world. From personal quibbles to issues with the world-at-large, this book is a laugh riot.

Schumacher is one hell of a writer, and she inhabits her protagonist (who also just happens to be his own antagonist, mind you!) with so much realism and wit. The thing is, I don't believe that Jason means to be funny; I believe he intends to point out the ills of the world such as online recommendation forms and the inanity of higher ed administration, which is something not unlike most general office politics. It's what makes him so sympathetic, and why anyone who picks up this book will fall madly in love with it. A personal thank you to you, Julie Schumacher, for writing this book and making my week.

Hard copy for purchase below.

No comments:

Post a Comment