‘Dear Committee Members’ by Julie Schumacher – An English Professor and His Letters

‘Dear Committee Members’ by Julie Schumacher   (2014) – 180 pages

dear-committee-members

In ‘Dear Committee members’, Julie Schumacher has written a comic novel consisting entirely of a college professor’s Letters of Recommendation.

What are letters of recommendation?  They are momentous letters that can make or break your life.  They can provide personal opinions about your character, ability, and habits.  These letters could be dangerous if anybody ever read them.

Professor Jason Fitger (‘Jay the Obtuse’) of the Department of English at Payne University does so many of these letters that he writes with a forthright directness about stuff usually not found in them.  Messages to ex-wives and ex-girlfriends sneak in.  The letters are filled with complaints about the University’s abysmal treatment of his Department.

“He has worked hard, he has done what was asked of him, and – in the wake of the deliberate gutting of the liberal arts, English in particular, in favor of the technological sciences – he has held together the tattered scraps of the literature and writing programs, which the faceless gremlins in your office have condemned to indigence and ruin.”

 Our Professor is deliriously envious of all the money being spent on the adjacent Economics Department while the English Department gets next to nothing.

Although a few of his students switch to law or medicine, many English majors wind up applying for jobs in some of the most unusual places.  The Professor sends out letters to ‘Annie’s Nannies Child and Play Center’, ‘Avengers Paintball, Inc.’ and ‘Xanadu Park RVs’.

The Professor can’t stand the sole sullen ‘Tech Help Team’ member assigned to the English Department, so he writes a glowing Recommendation in order to get rid of him.

“Whatever I can do to assist in your – or any other firm’s – hiring of Mr. Napp I will accomplish with resolution and zeal.” 

 Meanwhile the Professor’s efforts on behalf of his number one fiction writing student fall on deaf ears.  It is one of his less impressive students who pens the best seller.

A series of letters, ‘Dear Committee Members’ is an epistolary novel.  Since all the letters are written by the same Professor, the novel takes on the characteristics of a comic monologue with variations of the themes mentioned above.  Usually epistolary novels contain the back-and-forth and variety of letters composed by two or more characters. However ‘Dear Committee Members’ does work quite well on its own terms with this single letter writer.

‘Dear Committee Members’ is a quick and fun read, so I am writing this Letter of Recommendation on its behalf.

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