If you haven’t noticed by now, you should know that I am a sucker for novels set in academia. I loved the campus novel when I was in grad school and I love it even more now, especially if it is a novel about disillusionment in the academy. Cue Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. This book is laugh out loud funny. It took Herculean feats of strength for me not to read every second sentence out loud to my husband.
Dear Committee Members is written entirely in letters of recommendation, the bane of every professor’s existence, that reveal more about the writer than the candidate being recommended. Long digressions and post-scripts bring creative writing professor Jason Fitger into sharp focus as the book goes on. At least half of the letters are addressed to his ex-wife, ex-bedmate, ex-advisor and so on. It shows how inter-connected everything in the world of scholarship really is. It also highlights the peril of humanities programs in all universities in a time when the sciences seem to take precedence. (As a graduate student studying Sanskrit and other dead languages and married to a geophysicist, this was something that irked me more than I care to admit to during my grad school years).
Who would like this book? The cover of Dear Committee Members describes it as a book that “puts the pisses back into epistolary”. It think it’s safe to say that if that makes you laugh, then this book is for you. It is a short and funny read written with intelligence and wit. In some ways it reminds me of old campus novel favorites like Michael Chabon’s The Wonder Boys, most things by David Lodge and Publish and Perish by James Hynes. I’m convinced enough by Schumacher’s writing in this book that I’m going to try another of her books, The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls.
This book was provided by the UK publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.