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 audiobook 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.
©2014 Julie Schumacher (P)2014 Random House Audio
"[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)
"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)
"Dear Committee Members is a brilliant book that, in my head, sits comfortably on my prized shelf of academic novels, right between Lucky Jim and Pictures from an Institution. But it's funnier than either, and more wrenching in the end. The conceit of a novel told in letters of reference is inspired, and it is killingly funny because it's all so killingly true. Truth walks here in the strangest of costumes, and in part because of its guises, we can face it, frown, laugh, cry. I've never lost an afternoon so happily." (Jay Parini, author of The Last Station and The Passages of H.M.)
I found this hysterical. Cynical and sarcastic, by turns dry and over the top. Probably a whole lot more interesting and funny for people who have spent a fair amount of time at a university.
I wondered when I purchased this whether it would feel 'gimmicky' based on the unusual form and hyperbolic tone, but I was surprised by how much actual story there is in this collection of letters. This is quite an accomplishment considering that most of the letters are not written to anyone the main character actually knows. At times I found Jason Fitger infuriating and narcissistic, but a real empathy for his students and for writers he admires slowly emerges through the misanthropy. Using this method of storytelling, Schumacher really does manage to comment on some very topical issues: the abuse of recent graduates and adjunct/non-tenure academics in the current university and college system, the transition from applicant to supplicant for students entering this economy, the strange politics behind what gets published and what doesn't, etc. It might be a short book and a highly stylized method of storytelling, but I liked it and recommend it especially to anyone who who is a writer, an academic, a recent student, or simply one of the millions who have been smacked in the face by the new economy.
I teach American Literature and am the proud daddy of a 2 year old.
The humor and the depictions of life in academia seemed spot on to me. For those of us who have been there, this is well worth the trip. For an epistolary novel this brief, the book is also quite compelling.
Anyone who has read David Lodge or Richard Russo's Straight Man and longed for another satirical take on academia, this is for you!
Yes, it is short. Don't let that stop you however. I heartily recommend this one to anyone who has ever worked in the academic world. You'll find yourself wanting more.
Funny, charming and sad.
The professor/narrator. His character is surprisingly complex despite his living up to the Humanities professor stereotype.
I haven't listened to anything else he has read, but this was an outstanding performance. He has clear diction, great emotional expression and a lovely speaking voice. Really made the book enjoyable.
Janet. She comes through even though she doesn't say a word in the entire novel.
Photo is of my portuguese water dog, Sheila!
The narration of this book is excellent. First time through, I did not really engage in the story. Decided to give it a second try and liked it. If your mind tends to wander, though, this might not be the listen for you.
Told through sarcastic letters of support written by a professor for his mostly lackluster student to prospective employers, graduate programs and academic colleagues, the premise sounded like a fun read. I was disappointed by how short the book was and also how slim the "plot" was. There is a story that gradually unfolds, but it isn't much. The book is mostly cleverly worded rants and complaints, kind of fun, but I hoped for more substance. If I'd looked more closely and seen it was under 4 hours (most audio books I listen to are 15-30 hours) I wouldn't have used an Audible.com credit for it. Seems like it would have been better as a short story in the New Yorker.
A most wonderful gift. This may be the funniest book I have ever read & I have read a lot of books. I laughed out loud the entire time I listen. I cried in the end. Now I will listen to this book agIn.
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