Dear Committee Members

A Novel
Narrated by: Robertson Dean
Series: Jason Fitger, Book 1
Length: 3 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (381 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"[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.)

What listeners say about Dear Committee Members

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  • Overall
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Hysterically funny and poignant

Epistolary novel entirely made up of increasingly snarky letters of recommendation from a cynical burned out professor of English whose only creative outlet is these letters. Especially funny for folks who spent substantial time at university.

4 people found this helpful

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Well Worth the time

What did you love best about Dear Committee Members?

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.

What other book might you compare Dear Committee Members to and why?

Anyone who has read David Lodge or Richard Russo's Straight Man and longed for another satirical take on academia, this is for you!

Any additional comments?

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.

2 people found this helpful

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Too short and light to be worth a credit

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.

2 people found this helpful

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Offbeat and unusual, but surprisingly evocative

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.

3 people found this helpful

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Quirky format

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.

1 person found this helpful

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Engaging epistolary novel

I thoroughly enjoyed Dear Committee Members. It’s laugh out loud funny with a poignant ending.

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Brilliant Satire of Academic Life

I recommend Dear Committee Members, a laugh-out-loud novel about an academic year in the life of a cynical, curmudgeonly English professor at a Midwestern university. Writing letters of recommendation fills most of his time, and the book is a collection of 67 such letters.

What makes them delicious is that, rather than writing the tactful circumloqutions that professors specialize in, the protagonist says what he really thinks, with priceless post-scripts and asides about academic life and society generally. The result is non-stop mirth.

The narrator’s performance is exquisite.

I also read the sequel, The Shakespeare Requirement, where the protagonist becomes the chair of the department. I enjoyed it, but nowhere near as much as Dear Committee Members.

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great satire; perfectly read

such a well-balanced satire, w a frustrating protagonist whose letters and memos are equally funny and revealing, and robertson dean remains one of the best audiobook narrators. i plowed through this nonstop.

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Surprisingly Emotional

You really feel for the characters even though you only ever meet them through Letters of Recommendation and perception, with the exception of Jason Fitger (sp?) our sardonic narrator. The audio book's narrator is top notch... if I didn't know this was fiction, I would believe he really was this jaded professor. Can't wait to listen to the sequel!

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An excellent performance

As someone who spent her working life in academia, I found this book both funny and sad. The narrator is excellent, conveying the wry, weary tone of a beleaguered professor in a changing climate. The epistolary format works very well, slowly unfolding a compelling story. Well worth a credit.