Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

Upon hearing an interview with Julie Schumacher on an NPR Books podcast, I knew that I wanted to read Dear Committee Members. I like offbeat academic satires, such as Moo by Jane Smiley and Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith. I was not disappointed. Schumacher is an inventive and witty storyteller.

Dear Committee Members is not your common comic narrative. Schumacher has instead written a long series of letters of recommendation from unpredictable English professor Jay Fitger of Payne University. Many are written for students of his creative writing classes who are seeking employment to either pay for their educations or to get their first full time jobs. Some are aimed at getting grants or scholarships. Not all are for the benefit of students, as he writes LORs for his colleagues trying to escape the underfunded and disrespected English Department. What makes these letters funny is Fitger's total lack of tact and over-sharing.

About five letters into the book, I was not sure if I was going to like it much. There were many characters, and I had not yet seen who mattered. I am happy that I continued because several story lines became clear and I became very interested in Fitger, who is a very complicated man.

After reading Dear Committee Members, you may wonder whether anyone will ever again ask the author Schumacher, who teaches at the University of Minnesota, for a letter of recommendation. She told NPR that her students know about the book but they still ask for letters

Schumacher, Julie. Dear Committee Members. Doubleday, 2014. 180p. ISBN 9780385538138.

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