Julie Schumacher brings humor to college recommendations in new novel

'Dear Committee Members'
'Dear Committee Members' by Julie Schumacher
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Jason Fitger writes a lot of letters of recommendation. It's through this uninspired medium that Fitger, the main character in Julie Schumacher's new novel, "Dear Committee Members", relays the woes of his life as a college writing professor in a declining department at a small Midwestern college.

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"Dear Committee Members" serves up the traditional comic situations of classic academic farces like David Lodge's "Small World" and Kingsley Amis's immortal "Lucky Jim," but it also updates the genre to include newer forms of indignity within the halls of academe.

Take, for instance, this gem of a recommendation Fitger writes on behalf of a young colleague applying for a teaching position in "Comp/Rhetoric" at another college: "Alex Ruefle has prevailed upon me to support his teaching application to your department, which I gather is hiring adjunct faculty members exclusively, bypassing the tenure track with its attendant health benefits, job security, and salaries on which a human being might reasonably live. Perhaps your institution should cut to the chase and put its entire curriculum online, thereby sparing Ruefle the need to move. ... You could prop him up in a broom closet in his apartment, poke him with the butt end of a mop when you need him to cough up a lecture on Caribbean fiction or the passive voice, and then charge your students a thousand dollars each to correct the essays their classmates have downloaded from a website. Such is the future of education."

Schumacher joins The Daily Circuit to discuss her novel.

Schumacher will read from her novel at the University of Minnesota September 3.

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