Odd and quirky. This is the perfect book to read while on a trip around Iceland's ring road, or any other time you are looking for an allusive and dar...moreOdd and quirky. This is the perfect book to read while on a trip around Iceland's ring road, or any other time you are looking for an allusive and darkly funny book. More when I get back home and have time to do more than hike up volcanic mountains and drink in scenery.(less)
Read this not long after it came out on the recommendation of my mother who liked it. I found it to be full of beautiful writing and a central charact...moreRead this not long after it came out on the recommendation of my mother who liked it. I found it to be full of beautiful writing and a central character I couldn't understand or empathize with. Perhaps it was the wrong book at the wrong time and I would like it better if I reread it. I doubt I'll ever get around to it, but I wanted to say I give it the benefit of the doubt as I know there are a lot of books I would like better now than I did when I first read them.(less)
A perfect compendium of snark and inappropriate sharing that I loved. Jay Fitger will remind all former students of the teacher who, while mired in bi...moreA perfect compendium of snark and inappropriate sharing that I loved. Jay Fitger will remind all former students of the teacher who, while mired in bitterness and passive-aggressive social suicide, underneath all the bluster cared deeply for students and colleagues.
A tenured professor at a second-rate liberal arts university, the best days of Jay's career are fading into the distant past. His novels have never sold well after the first and are now out-of-print. He's ruined all of his romantic relationships -- the last was scuppered through a dramatic misuse of the university email system in a move so boneheaded that it can't help but elicit a guffaw or two at Jay's brilliant self-sabotage. Even the department's physical surroundings are a wreck as the floor above is renovated to provide luxurious accommodations for the Economics faculty while leaving the English department covered in dust and disrepair.
We learn of Jay's plight through a year's worth of hilarious recommendation letters, pleadings really, that comprise this brief novel. Jay's view of the world is cantankerous, more so for being couched in language that condescends in its ostentatious superior tone. He skewers university hierarchies, the state of publishing and creative writing education, along with the classic intradepartmental divisions within English departments (though these same divisions mark any number of humanities disciplines). No member of a liberal arts faculty will fail to recognize the frustrations of scrambling for decent tech support, jobs for students, and recognition that appear here. It is all familiar and would be heartbreaking if it weren't so funny. This book will make its way into offices at colleges and universities around the country where everyone will read it and publicly deny that Payne Univeristy resembles their institutions, while privately acknowledging the essential, if exaggerated, truth of the picture Jay paints.
Satire works best when there is an emotional heart that provides a counterpoint to its criticism -- without this relief the pointed humor becomes too bleak and hopeless. As a reader I want to think there is some light left in the darkness. I am happy to report that there is a heart beating at the center of "Dear Committee Members" and one that avoids the trap of treacle. Kudos to Ms. Schumacher for making it plain that underneath the hurt, frustration and disappointment is a man who still is a decent human being, even if he can't come out and admit it.
With its August release date, "Dear Committee Members' will be perfect back to school reading.(less)