Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Notes: "Dear Committee Members", by Julie Schumacher

So this was the book I had to refrain from reviewing till now, even though I finished reading it in the fall. Why?  Because I wanted to give it for Christmas presents! And some of the people I love have the bad habit* of purchasing books I recommend.

This book . . . oh my friends, this book. This book made me laugh so hard.

It's also rather melancholy at the end, so: fair warning. This book might not make you feel, in meme-speech, all the things, but it might come close.

"Dear Committee Members", by Julie Schumacher, is an epistolatory novel, wherein all the letters are written by an English professor. More specifically, by a writing professor.  And yes, both the fact that it's epistolatory and the fact that it's about writing made it almost inevitable that I would pick it up once I heard about it.

But it lived up to my hopes.

If you know anyone in academia, you'll be familiar with the exquisite pain of the procurement of letters of recommendation. Painful from the point-of-view of both professor and student, I am given to understand.

In this book, our protagonist, Prof. Fitger, has written letters of recommendation. Oh, has he written letters of recommendation. So many letters of recommendation.

So many, in fact, that he has begun to go a bit mad.

Not really mad, not crazy, but mad enough to write them now in the driest of sarcastic voices, with the withering, biting humor than only a very, very, very annoyed professor can muster.

And not just sarcastic letters of recommendation, but plaintive letters of complaint to the dean, self-deprecating letters to his ex-wife, and (most heartbreakingly) pleading letters on behalf of his students, who he knows very well might find themselves without home or means once they're out of the half-hearted embrace of their home university.

I loved this book. It's been a long time since a book has made me laugh like this, and I shook my head in recognition of the erudite, dysfunctional rhythms of academia. For the purposes of this blog, I can't recommend it as Christian or hopeful or anything like that, but all the same, I can't imagine an avid fiction reader who wouldn't enjoy this one. It's just really good.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*errr, that is, lovely! I mean, they have this lovely habit.

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