Dear oh dear

20 10 2018

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

 

 

Finally a novel that puts the “pissed” back into “epistolary.”

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.

 

“Hilarious”, “witty”, “I love this novel” are just some of the quotes on the cover of the book. I’m afraid I wouldn’t deploy any of them in describing it. I really, really, really wanted to love this but I’m afraid it was just a bit dull. There were momentary sparks of humour but I just could not get excited about Fitger and his correspondence which seemed to cover most of the bases of academic life but just in a rather predictable manner.

Maybe the sequel will be a bit more fun.

(And no, I know I couldn’t do better.)

 

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