Dear Committee Members

Dear Committee Members

by Julie Schumacher


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A Best Book of the Year:  NPR and Boston Globe

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 offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby. In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345807335
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/23/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 60,194
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

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. Her other books include a short story collection, An Explanation for Chaos, and five books for younger readers. She lives in St. Paul and is a faculty member in the Creative Writing Program and the Department of English at the University of Minnesota. 

Visit her on the web at

Read an Excerpt

September 3, 2009

Excerpted from "Dear Committee Members"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Julie Schumacher.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

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Dear Committee Members: A novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
SusieH5 More than 1 year ago
A very amusing look at aspects of academic life through the eyes of Jason T. Fitger, Professor of Creative Writing and English. His creative writing skills are much in evidence as he is regularly required to write references for students, sometimes students with little or no talents, or almost unknown to him due to poor attendance. He manages to intersperse references with mild complaints about the building work that is going on around him for a better funded university department. It is clear that his own department is short of funding, and that he is, or feels that he is, regarded as something of an irrelevance in the university. Nothing is helped by his two exes, recipients of some of his references, and less than inclined to take on anyone who he  is genuinely putting forward. He puts a lot of effort into attempting to find a position for Darren Browles, a penniless student whose funding has been cut. Jason feels that Darren's part written novel has enough promise to put his department back on the map, should he ever manage to finish it. This was a delightful read, a real breath of fresh air, and it had me laughing out loud.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Clever and engaging, a feisty English professor at a fictional university mourns the loss of respect/relevance for his field and the intrusion of technology into his world. The format is a series of letters of recommendation for various students and faculty that he has to write. Lighthearted, but with a big message. The last few letters are especially touching.
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
This little gem of a novel is a easy, but very enjoyable, read. Consisting solely of the letters written by a disillusioned small-college English professor, it works on several levels. The language of the letters themselves - humorous, wistful, snarky, cajoling, apologetic, and so much more - is thoroughly delightful. There's the mystery of the professor's background, the clues that give insight into how he's reached his current state of affairs, or you can enjoy the subplots of various recurring figures to whom he refers. Spanning less than a year, based on the dates of the entries, the reader nevertheless gets a sense of much of the author's adult life, both triumphs and travails. At only 180 pages, it's over too quickly, but now sits on my shelf waiting for a future re-read(s).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny and layered
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first the letters seem quite random but soon yiu see the story emerge
ForTheArtOfIt More than 1 year ago
I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review. I am always amazed at the ability of an author to tell a story through a series of letters. Dear Committee Members does so from the perspective of one letter writer yet still paints a pretty clear picture of Jason Fitger and the regrets and frustrations that he faces.  I found the writing to be humorous and as a teacher, see great value in this text for not only vocabulary building but also in discussions about what constitutes "professional" writing and how it differs from casual writing that seems to be used more and more by students. I noticed one reviewer mentioned that this format could get tiring after just a bit.  I'll admit that about 20% in, I was wondering if the book would hold my attention.  Fitger's letters began to slip into inappropriateness rather quickly and became much more engaging; suddenly I found that I was almost at 90% and boredom was not a concern any longer.  I also found this an easy book to read alongside other books without confusing plot details or characters which typically happens when I read multiple fiction books at a time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a retired professor I found this book especially insightful. Some of the references were subtle enough to challenge my memory. Keeping track of names and past events added to my amusement. My college changed the title of "chair" to "director" arousing my concern at that time. The author's substitution of "dictator" for "director" reinforced my fears. I too had endured the neglect of physical facilities. I wish that I had this book as a model when writing letters of recommendation. But you don't have to be a retired professor to enjoy the book. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a light read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
***** Whether you teach in public, private, magnet or charter schools, you will enjoy this book. If you are in academe, you should run, not walk, to your nearest bookstore or computer to purchase it and begin reading immediately.  In each letter, you will recognize friends, acquaintances, deans, students and familiar incidents.  I began smiling, then chuckling, giggling and finally guffawing from the first letter. 
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
Dear Committee Members is a hoot and a half. This book made me me laugh from start to finish. I also was transported back to graduate school while reading this book.The last few letters were especially touching. I enjoyed how he would start to write about his students and then, sometimes go off on tangents about his personal life. Dear Committee Members is a wonderful comical book about academic life. I would highly recommend it.
Palegirl More than 1 year ago
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 relegating those departments to the worst parts of the worst buildings. Over the course of the year in which the novel is set, we get to know Professor Fitger (really, it just doesn’t feel right to call him by his first name) through his letters of recommendation and his letters of complaint; through his ire at fill-in-the-blank e-forms; and his championing of a questionable novelist-in-the-making. I was thoroughly charmed by this novel, which brings up great points about the costs of a higher education and the state of humanities courses in a technological world.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
4inmysteryreader More than 1 year ago
Shows how politics have changed on campus for the humanities in recent years in a novel way. Wonderful narrative voice!
isniffbooks More than 1 year ago
The corporate world has its TPS reports and memos and academia has its letters of recommendation (LORs). And just like with the former, Jason suspects that no one is actually doing anything with his LORs. He doubts anyone is reading them and feels they are destined for the shredder. Still, Jason puts considerable effort into crafting his LORs — whether he’s overly fond of your or not! In many of the LORs, Jason manages to insult the recipient, pass along grammar advice and spelling tips, make confessions, offer personal/professional advice, and/or provide social and political analysis on the inner workings of his department and the university at large. You’ve got to wonder how Jason gets away with what writes, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. The book reads as a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a struggling department and a professor trying to make sense of where he is in his personal and professional life. Dear Committee Members is highly entertaining and bittersweet. A recommended read for anyone employed in higher education, fans of epistolary novels, and for those looking for a quirky and smart read. isniffbooks[dot]wordpress[dot]com Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.