“Like Richard Russo’s Straight Man this book has a lot to say about the humanities in American colleges and universities…. Very funny and also moving.” —Tom Perrotta, New York Post
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: NPR and Boston Globe
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.
Don’t miss Julie Schumacher's new novel, The English Experience, coming soon.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Professor Jason Fitger can’t get a break—and his struggles couldn’t be more hilarious. The not-great English department at his small Midwestern liberal-arts college is slowly succumbing to budget cuts and infighting. Plus, he’s burned many bridges with his colleagues—mainly via workplace romances gone awry, which he wrote about in his novels. Julie Schumacher tweaks the old-fashioned epistolary-novel format by telling Fitger’s story through the endless letters of recommendation his students ask him to write. All of his misery and frustration bleeds into these otherwise staid, professional letters, turning them into bizarre, passive-aggressive outlets for his pettiness, arrogance, and sarcasm. Dear Committee Members is ridiculous, hysterically funny, and—for anybody who has dealt with workplace politics—so, so true.
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.
So true of the academy that it’s not funny....but the book is.
Loved it and highly relatable to anyone who has worked in higher ed.
Hilariously funny, thought provoking and poignant
This book is very engaging and laugh out loud funny. Occasionally it turns poignant. The protagonist is engaging, piquant and endearing reminding me of a few teachers in my past.
A truly awful read
If it weren't this month's book club selection, I'd have put it out of my insert after 15-20 pages. Pathetic waste of type.