Thursday, October 15, 2015

Highly Recommended: "Dear Committee Members" by Julie Schumacher

Let me start by stating that Julie Schumacher's novel Dear Committee Members is funny. It's also witty, keenly observed, honest, and an absolute pleasure to read.

Written in monologic epistolary style, it features a year's worth of letters written by Professor Jason T. Fitger, tenured professor of creative writing at Payne University. In his mid-50s, Fitger's own creative writing and publishing has stalled. In its place, the day-to-day demands of his job, and in particular the writing of letters of recommendation (LORs), consumes all his time. But what letters they are! For example:

Internship Coordinator
State Senator Pierce Balnearo's Office
The Halls of Power
. . .
Melinda is intelligent; she is organized; she is well spoken. Given her aptitude for research (unlike most undergraduates, she has moved beyond Wikipedia), I am sure that she will soon learn that the senator, his leathern face permanently embossed with a gruesome rictus of feigned cheer, has consistently voted against funds for higher education and has cosponsored multiple narrow-minded backwater proposals that will make it ever more difficult for her to repay the roughly $38,000 in debt that the average graduate of our institution inherits - along with a lovely blue tassel-on the day of commencement.

A major theme in Fitger's LORs is society's deflation of the value of teaching young people how to think and write. Perhaps this sounds like dull reading, but author Julie Schumacher masterfully presents the subject with biting humor, often simply by speaking the truth using scrumptious word choice. And through these letters, some sent to prospective employers on behalf of students, others to faculty colleagues, his ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, and his publisher, Fitger himself is slowly revealed. Happily, under the crusty shell is a person we like.

I think Dear Committee Members is a wonderful book and highly recommend it.




1 comment:

  1. "Dear Committee Members" also won the 2015 Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Fiction (http://www.midwestbooksellers.org/booksellers-choice-awards.html) and the Thurber Prize for Humor Writing (https://www.inverse.com/article/6595-it-s-about-time-julie-schumacher-becomes-first-woman-to-win-thurber-prize-for-humor-writing).

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