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Dear Committee Membersby Julie Schumacher
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Professor Jason Fitger, the hero of this engaging epistolary novel from Schumacher (The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls), is concerned about Darren Browles, a student of his currently at work on a novel. Fitger, who teaches creative writing at fictional Payne University, believes this book, when completed, will prove Browles to be a prodigy. Despite Fitger's near-ecstatic praise of the would-be novelist, both for writing positions and for any job available, no one seems interested in hiring Browles, not even the less-than-enterprising college radio station. In addition to this pet project, Fitger commits himself to writing recommendations for anyone that asks. However, he agrees to do so only on the condition of being completely frank, leading him to address the personal lives of his colleagues and students inappropriately. Additionally, Fitger delves into his own life with uncomfortable honesty, regardless of which person he's writing to, usually concerning the marriage-ending novel he wrote about his extramarital affairs and his distress over being a failed novelist. His letters become progressively more abrasive, to the point of insult. A creative writing professor herself, Schumacher crafts a suitably verbose but sympathetic voice for Fitger, a man who exudes both humor and heart. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM Partners. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A hilarious academic novel that'll send you laughing (albeit ruefully) back into the trenches of the classroom....[A] mordant minor masterpiece....Like the best works of farce, academic or otherwise, Dear Committee Members deftly mixes comedy with social criticism and righteous outrage. By the end, you may well find yourself laughing so hard it hurts." NPR
"[A] very funny epistolary novel composed of recommendation letters....It’s an unusual form for comedy, but it works. Truth is stranger than fiction in this acid satire of the academic doldrums." Kirkus Reviews
"A funny and lacerating novel of academia written in the form of letters of recommendation....Dear Committee Members isn’t really an academic novel, or even an academic satire. It’s a sincere exploration of the depths and breadths of human selfishness, and the contemporary American academy is simply the backdrop....So in the end, it is exactly Fitger’s selfishness that destructs, rather than his life — and although his semi-redemption may not redeem the rank carcass of academic culture that continues to fester around him, it’s more than enough to recommend this mischievous novel." Slate
"Schumacher’s warm satire of the peculiarities of the Ivory Tower will be recognizable to anyone who has encountered the bureaucracy and internal politics of higher education." Booklist
"A clever epistolary send-up of academic logrolling." Shelf Awareness
About the Author
Julie Schumacher grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from Oberlin College and Cornell University. Her first novel, The Body Is Water, was published by Soho Press in 1995 and was an ALA Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Minnesota Book Award. Her other books include a short story collection, An Explanation for Chaos, and five books for younger readers. She lives in St. Paul and is a faculty member in the Creative Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of Minnesota. Visit her on the web at julieschumacher.com.
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