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Dear Committee Members

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  8,407 Ratings  ·  2,006 Reviews
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
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Hardcover, 181 pages
Published August 19th 2014 by Doubleday (first published 2014)
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karen
Apr 20, 2014 karen rated it liked it
Shelves: free-from-work
this is an like epistolary version of Lucky Jim, in which a jovial but pompous and generally unlikeable blowhard of an english professor bloviates and alienates his way through a series of letters of recommendation, straying from the task at hand to insert his own unrelated gripes and personal attacks, destroying bridges he has already burned, while somehow, admirably, also providing a narrative arc.

it's just a little wisp of a novel, but anyone who has spent any time at all in the halls of acad
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Esil
Nov 02, 2014 Esil rated it really liked it
Dear Goodreads friend,
I am writing to highly recommend that you read Dear Committee Members, especially if you have a propensity to enjoy sardonic academic satires written in the form of LORs (letters of reference) written by a cantankerous professor of English literature who has a tendency to irk many colleagues and former spouses, has an endless supply of pet peeves, but nevertheless cares for a handful of his more talented students and colleagues and has many valid -- albeit overwrought -- ob
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Diane
Nov 17, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it
Anyone who has spent time in academia will get a chuckle out of this book. It's a collection of letters from a disgruntled English professor at a small college. Most of the missives are Letters of Recommendation for students, but there are also emails and memos to colleagues.

The novel, written by a woman who is a writing professor at the University of Minnesota, smartly touches on a lot of the current problems in higher education, including its overreliance on part-time instructors instead of f
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Lisa
Sep 18, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dear Author,

It is with deeply felt regret that I have to tell you that I can't recommend your book to the wider Goodreads community, despite the fact that I really liked it. It even made me laugh out loud many times, serving as a perfect digression from some heavy reading that I had to digest this weekend.

Why, you might rightly ask, dear Author, will I then not do you the favour to write something nice about it? Something about the hilarious idea to reinvent the epistolary genre with a funny co
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Angela M
Oct 17, 2014 Angela M rated it really liked it
Of course there is a serious commentary on the state of academic affairs here especially of English and Creative Writing Departments, but this book was extremely funny and I loved
it . I don't mean to diminish the serious underlying message but I laughed out loud . Jay Fitger , Professor of Creative Writing and English at Payne University seems to spend a good part of his day writing letters of recommendation for students and former students for jobs, graduate school or literary residence progra
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James Thane
Jan 31, 2016 James Thane rated it really liked it
This is a very funny and also a very smart look at the contemporary world of academia as seen through the endless numbers of letters of recommendation written by Jason T. Fitger, a professor of Creative Writing and English at the fictional Payne University, which is located somewhere in the Midwest.

Like so many other disciplines in the Humanities, Fitger's English department appears to be under siege. Its budget has been slashed; full-time tenured faculty are being forced out in favor of part-t
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Howard
Ms. Nan A. Talese
Doubleday Publishing
1745 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

Dear Ms. Talese:

I saw online that you were the contact person for Doubleday Publishing and that manuscripts must be submitted by agents because you do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Well, relax Nan, that isn’t why I am contacting you.

No, I have several other reasons I would like to tell you about:

• I became aware of the book Dear Committee Members when several of my respected friends gave it good reviews on Goodreads. I als
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Nicky
An entire novel written in the form of passive-aggressive recommendation letters sounds like the kind of gimmick that would get old really quick - especially with such a whisper-thin plot. But if you have a weakness for witty, self-destructive English professors who can effortlessly reduce someone to the size of a Tic Tac in six words or less, you will probably be thoroughly entertained for at least 80% of it.
Diane S ☔
Jul 26, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
The novel is a series of letters, recommendations and posts from a Professor of English and Creative writing at Payne University. Form these posts we learn of the Professors frustration at the state of the building where his office is as well as that of this whole program in general. Of the impeding death of creative writing or writing actual books and his impulsive personal life.

Extremely witty, tongue-in-cheek humor, sarcasm and ironic, the author deftly presents her story in an unusual form.
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Jenna
Let me begin my review of this novel about the lovable eccentricities of academia by providing an anecdote about a lovably eccentric academic I once knew. A favorite English professor of mine was constantly in a delightfully manic state of enthusiasm about every scrap of literature ever written, each scrap of which he had personally read. He was so overwhelmed with appreciation for every syllable ever put to paper by humankind and had a keen sense of reverence for the critical role any given sub ...more
Mona
Mar 25, 2015 Mona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca Foster
Jason Fitger is a middle-aged professor of English and creative writing at Payne University, a middling liberal arts college somewhere in the American Midwest. That was a lot of “mids” for one sentence. Rest assured, though: there is nothing average about Schumacher’s second novel. Told entirely through the irascible Fitger’s letters of recommendation for his colleagues and students, it is a delightful epistolary. Fitger’s barbed comments and garrulousness will keep you laughing. Schumacher hers ...more
Larry H
Dec 21, 2014 Larry H rated it really liked it
You know, it has been a while since I've read a supposedly funny book that actually turns out to be funny, but Julie Schumacher's Dear Committee Members was great fun. I even laughed out loud in a few spots, and I don't think it's entirely because I was picturing the book as if it were read by a committee member of mine, who tends to write with the same verbose style as Schumacher's narrator.

Jason Fitger is a weary professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University. He was once a w
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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
3.5 stars.

I may have found this funnier than the average reader - I grew up around English departments, which are strange places.
Betsy Robinson
Dec 22, 2015 Betsy Robinson rated it it was amazing
Hilarious! The novel comprises the recommendation letters (for worthy or less-than-worthy students) of one weary professor of creative writing and English at Payne University—pun intended. Professor Jason Fitger is twice divorced and sometimes has to direct his letters to his ex-wives or ex-lover. Not only is the novel funny, but it is moving. Fitger becomes more and more real; you can feel not only his disgust at his department (which he compares to the Titanic), at himself and his hopeless sit ...more
Victoria (RedsCat)
Aug 27, 2014 Victoria (RedsCat) rated it it was amazing
I thought about writing my review of Dear Committee Members as a letter, but realized I’m not nearly so clever or funny as Jason Fitger, the cantankerous hero of this epistolary novel by Julie Schumacher.

Sure Professor Fitger is cranky but with good reason. Several good reasons. It’s not easy to be an English and Creative Writing professor in this day and age. So he feels like a dying breed in a vocation under attack by those would happily dispose of arts and humanities. Not to mention relegatin
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Lisa B.
Jul 24, 2014 Lisa B. rated it it was amazing
My Thoughts

This story is told through a series of letters written by Professor Jason Fitger.

I laughed so hard reading this that my stomach hurt and I had tears rolling down my face. Professor Fitger’s writes eloquently worded letters that are delightfully witty, frequently snarky and filled with cynicism. While set in the world of academia, anyone who has had to send politically correct emails or letters should get a kick out of Professor Fitger’s ability to say just exactly what he is thinking.
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Terri Jacobson
Jason Fitger is a professor of English and creative writing at Payne University, a small institution in the American Midwest. We come to know him through his correspondence--mostly letters of recommendations (LORs) for students and colleagues seeking prizes, graduate teaching positions, and, indeed, jobs of all kinds. His letters are pithy, cogent, droll, and sneakily subversive. The humor builds through the novel and never becomes old. The surprising thing is how well we come to know Fitger, ho ...more
Julie
May 06, 2014 Julie rated it did not like it
Shelves: light
I spent about an hour with this book and that was WAY more time than it deserved. And here I'd heard such good things about it. And me and academic, too. Oh well. (I won't put it in the category "didn't finish" because I did leaf through the whole thing.)

The book is made up of a series of letters from our hero (?) to a variety of recipients. He's a professor of English. He's recommending people for various jobs, fellowships, etc. The first one/two letters are rather entertaining, but I don't se
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Susan
Aug 19, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a short, epistolary novel, consisting of a range of letters and emails sent from Jason (Jay) Figer, a Professor of Creative Writing and English at Payne University. Figer, we soon learn, is beleaguered in a building and a department which is less than perfect. The upper floors are being redesigned for the Economics department, while the English department suffers a lack of funding, dust from the building works, leaky windows and general dissatisfaction with their lot. More than once, Fig ...more
Guy Austin
Apr 25, 2016 Guy Austin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fiction
What the hell just happened? I picked this book off a dusty library shelf after exhausting all efforts to acquire one of my - To Be Read - titles growing like weeds on my Goodreads list.

It's hilarious. What a wonderfully quirky little novel full of sarcastic babbling of a burnt out Professor of Creative Writing and English. Did I mention he is also a published novelist who's creative juices have been squeezed so completely he is left to opine with absurdity and overt honesty within-Recommendati
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Karen
Aug 13, 2014 Karen rated it it was amazing
So very funny, so very true, so very poignant - I laughed my way through this book of letters by English Professor Jay Fitzger. Prof. Fitzger is not, at first, a character to admire, but as I continued to read (and wish I were brave enough to write some of the truths he does), I saw the caring and concerned teacher and friend underneath the bitter and frequently inappropriate facade. If you love language, read this book. Prof. Fitzger is eloquent.
Sarah
Dec 02, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
Jason Fitger, a professor of creative writing and literature at a small college, writes the most entertaining letters of recommendation that I have ever read. I doubt ANYONE gets a job based on his letters, but that probably encourages him. He uses his letter writing to say what he wants about his exes, his employer, other writers, people he once knew and the unfortunate person asking for the recommendation. It is funny and easy to read as the book is only his letters in order over a year. Thoug ...more
Karli
Aug 14, 2014 Karli rated it it was amazing
Shelves: real-bookshelves
I loved this novel - I laughed out loud at several parts, and enjoyed following Jay's logic, agendas and his own growth as he uses his pen as his sword for the good of the students and his friends. I think anyone who spent several years in a liberal arts department will certainly find this a compelling read. I'm very thankful to the people at Doubleday who sent me the book to enjoy!
Joshua Rigsby
Funny. Sometimes poignant. An all-to-realistic portrayal of the petty rivalries in academia.
Karen
Jul 22, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
I grabbed an ARC of this at ALA Annual 2014 (thanks, Doubleday!) It looked like a light, fun read, and since I've spent most of my career in academe, I can relate to the crazy-making politics of it. I expected to enjoy seeing some fun poked at the modern university, and to enjoy the novel (if slightly gimmicky) medium of writing a story in the format of recommendation letters.

This book is all that, but it also surprised me with its continuing through-line of sadness and anger. Our protagonist, J
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McKenzie
Jul 26, 2015 McKenzie rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this scathing, sarcastic, hilarious epistolary novel told in a series of recommendation letters from a curmudgeonly, disillusioned English professor at a second-tier university. Having written numerous recommendation letters myself, I can relate to the technological issues of online recommendation systems; the inane request to rate applicants as the top 10%, 5%, 1%, or 0.0001%; and the desire to be transparently honest in giving good recommendations to people I just want to st ...more
Jeanette
Mar 25, 2015 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Good lord, I almost gave this a 5 star. It's square on the bull's eye.

Because I have absolutely been there, and done that. Just completely mad at myself for not documenting it as well as Julie Schumacher did.

In my case it was the Chair of Music and Fine Arts Director, not the English Dept. Chair, but almost parallel to these letters. I was absolutely the snake, perfect description. I still think of him. On top of it he had a "late" child at 50 that he didn't AT ALL anticipate. I actually saw hi
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Ashley FL
Apr 25, 2014 Ashley FL rated it it was amazing
Slim and sharply-targeted, much like a rapier, skewering its subject matter. I chuckled my way through most of it -- funny but so on target that it was simultaneously funny and sad. I hope that the author isn't basing this too directly on her own university teaching experience.

There isn't much plot -- told through letters of recommendation, the writer reveals parts of history when he references parts of his past. But the character is well-drawn and, in spite of himself, likable. I definitely got
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Ann
This is a deliciously bitter little novel, in the best way possible. I don't know why angry people who feel they've been wronged by the world are so funny to me, but this hits all the right notes. I'm glad that I have so many close friends who work in academia: their personal experiences made all of the ridiculous antics ring completely true.
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2017 Reading Chal...: The Bottom: a Moving Target 1 16 Dec 06, 2015 07:58AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher 5 28 Feb 08, 2015 05:14PM  
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Julie Schumacher grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and graduated from Oberlin College and Cornell University. Her first novel, The Body Is Water, was published by Soho Press in 1995 and was an ALA Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Minnesota Book Award.

(from http://www.julieschumacher.com/)
More about Julie Schumacher...

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“I haven’t published a novel in six years; instead, I fill my departmental hours casting words of praise into the bureaucratic abyss. On multiple occasions, serving on awards committees, I was actually required to write LORs to myself.” 5 likes
“The reading and writing of fiction both requires and instills empathy—the insertion of oneself into the life of another.” 5 likes
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