English professors write the best letters of recommendation, but beware. They can kill you with articulate faint praise (and sometimes vitriol) – and you won’t even know. In her epistolary, Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher chronicles the life of an English Professor – from the idiotic to the sublime – through his letters. As the letters progress through the academic year, Jay Fitger reveals his relationships with colleagues, students, former wives, current lovers, literary agents, and Payne University where he is a long-time tenured professor of English and Creative Writing. Without tenure, he could not have survived, and with true academic justice, he eventually becomes one of the administrators he consistently criticizes.
Not everyone will appreciate the humor – maybe you’d have to have been there – but I laughed out loud. And I wondered if Schumacher had somehow gotten into my files of LOR (letters of recommendation) when one letter about a student’s research skills notes:
He cited his dentist and his roommate as primary sources…
Jay Fitger never refuses a request for a letter, and he always tells the truth. You won’t have to read too carefully through the abstruse wording to get the witty references.
Sadly, computerized forms and electronic messaging are replacing letter writing. Stamps are becoming extinct and writing paper may soon be hard to find. Ironically, I read the book on my iPad. But, within the context of letters, Schumacher humorously demonstrates how language can be its own reward, and tells a good story with it.