Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (5 out of 5)
This book? Incredibly funny. Also, incredibly short and a quick read. It’s always fun to read a novel made up entirely of letters that tell its plot. I hadn’t read one of those in a long while, until this doozy. I had a lot of fun in the three or so hours it took me to read it. I laughed aloud a number of times. No shortage of reasons why. Another reason I loved this is because it isn’t just letters, like journal entries or letters to the beloved or the bereaved- these are LOR’s. Not familiar with LOR? Letters of Recommendation. Hilarious and original thought there on the part of Ms. Schumacher, and I love it.
This book was released in August of this year. As sometimes happens with those who read far too much, far too fast, and far too distracted, it somehow escaped my notice. Until I went to straighten hardcover fiction at the store and I spotted the title- and then it was instant like. Highly recommended if you have a crap ton going on and seem to be hitting your head on your bookshelves because the books you are reading smell worse than Putin’s false promises. This will change that quickly.
Jay Pitger is professor of creative writing and literature at Payne College, a community college trying hard to be esteemed by others in the academic field. Jay himself is trying hard to be esteemed, but it’s difficult when your department keeps facing cuts left, right, and center field, while other departments somehow manage to survive the cutting edge of educational scissorwork. Jay’s letters of recommendation are to a number of people- from his ex wife to current squeeze (and sometimes forgetting NOT to include the ex-wife on a missive to the current squeeze. OUCH), to fellow colleagues, on behalf of his students, and more hilarious than the rest, on behalf of his star pupil Darren, who’s looking for work and any support that is NOT a rejection letter of his work, a magnum opus (laugh. You will!) called Accountant In A Brothel, which is a take-off of John Melville’s work Bartelby. I dare you to keep a straight face whilst reading those letters in support of his fledging author. It’s impossible! Jay’s life isn’t anything enviable at present time- his job is floundering, his writer career is in ruins (wait until you read the book titles), and there is no romantic life to speak of, unless you count his ex and once-current flame becoming the best of friends because they think he’s insane. Parts of this-I unequivocally understood, agreed with- I am living parts of this! (not the tug of war over the romantic foils, but the lack of a love life in general, and the writing doing squat). This book inspired me to write more letters- even if it’s in email form, or in blog form, or in the shape of a burning pyre of the new Keith Richards’ children’s book display. So not only do you see what makes Jay rush to the defense of others, but you also can sense his frustration at the abyss that is quickly becoming his life as it’s known. Of course, there is some resolution, but it’s not what you would think. And that, my friends, is why Ms. Schumacher’s book is genius. I hope there’s a follow up and that Jay Pitger makes a triumphant return. I will be waiting with bated breath!