Released: November 2014
Letter writing is becoming a dying art, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was presented with Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher’s latest novel. This is a book full of letters, from start to finish, a novel that combines a traditional mode of writing with a contemporary edge and a refreshing twist.
The letters which are the subject of the book are written from the perspective of Professor Jason Fitger, a teacher of creative writing and literature at a small, open-minded American arts college in the Midwest. Fitger is an archetypal would-be saviour and takes his role and responsibilities very seriously.
The endless letters of recommendation and references that Fitger’s students and colleagues call upon him to write are often witty, always persuasive and occasionally cutting, but skilfully concocted using passive-aggressive tactics to get his point across. None more so than his abundant letters of recommendation for his favourite pupil, which become a personal crusade. In Fitger’s eyes his protégé has penned a masterpiece, but despite his most enthusiastic promotions the student still can’t get a break.
I love the constant and progressively jabbing references to the favoured economics department on the floor above, which become funnier as the work continues, highlighting the harsh cuts his own department has been subjected to. This barbed correspondence is frequently hilarious.
Fitger’s own once flourishing career as a published author has also dramatically crashed following his ill-judged insertions in his most recent novel, which alluded to his personal and romantic life.
This delightful book builds up a wonderful picture of one man’s passion for his vocation and his overwhelming desire to help the upcoming generation fulfil their ambitions. Flawlessly written, the letters are achingly funny, occasionally embarrassing and at times poignant. I raced through this unusual novel and would highly recommend it.