Review: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

I’ve been trying to process and decide how I feel about this book and I don’t think I’m going to be able to without just hurling out all the thoughts and sorting along the way.

Dear Committee Members is an epistolary novel which means it’s told through writing between characters e.g. diary entries, text conversations, and in this case letters. We only see writing from one character which was an interesting move for the author to make. In the past with my admittedly limited experience in reading epistolary works there are usually multiple people writing but in this book we only read the words of Jay Fitger, professor of english at the fictional Payne University.

Throughout the book which is fairly short we learn that Fitger has two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend (exes because of cheating and publishing a novel which blatantly documents at least one affair because he is a Class Act), is a tenured professor, had middling success as an author and bounces between self-deprecation and indignation because of this, and is tired of writing letters of recommendation but does not hesitate to do so if only to try and impress on the poor HR person destined to get them that he is Too Clever and Biting to put up with any Professionalism. He is also focused on aiding a post-grad in finding an editor for his work in progress which is a retelling of Bartleby the Scrivener (of course it’s Melville #straightwhitedead) and Fitger has proclaimed it the best goddamn thing to touch the written world since probably Hemingway.

I chose this book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge because it’s epistolary, it’s incredibly short, and the tagline is “finally putting the pissed back into epistolary.” I expected to read a professor in his battle against the financial powers that be who pull money from english funding and put it towards other fields, in this case Economics which surprised me because I often think of STEM as the natural opponent to the Arts. In any case what I ended up reading was the ranting of a man so insufferable I nearly googled the closest Economics focused university to pledge a donation. I also began wondering about the value of literature in academia.

The fact that this book raises that question is really uncomfortable for me. I have always defended the arts and my bachelor’s in english. I do believe that the world needs art and literature and that these things can change the world. However, I also feel that the culture of Academia surrounding literature is not one that I would mourn losing. I would say that the elitism and pedantry of some in the Literary community is a defensive reaction to those who criticize or dismiss it, but there have been book snobs longer than there have been books. Does the world need a Bartleby the Scrivener retelling? Especially one that the protagonist later admits is not as genius as he’s been trying to proclaim but actually very rough, possibly even bad, but something he wanted to succeed so terribly because the boy himself was like a mirror to his younger years? Does wanting something to be important make it important in the long run?

I still don’t know. And I might be overthinking it because most of the reviews for this book reference its humor. I could see where it was supposed to be but I was so busy hating this character and wanting him to shut up it didn’t translate for me. And ultimately I don’t believe this book was written for me, someone who has long left behind literature in the academic context and now reads books for leisure. But that does not mean that this book was poorly written or that it might not be written for you. It’s one that I may revisit in the future but for now I’m very glad it’s done.

Trigger Warning: a character dies by suicide though it is not explicitly described

Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace 2019

My favorite podcast, reading related or otherwise, is Heaving Bosoms where two friends banter and discuss romance novels. It’s like belonging to a long distance book club where I practically never do the reading. It is magical. This year they introduced their own reading embrace and I am all in and urge you to join us! I’m a fairly new romance reader and this embrace really gives you an opportunity to revisit old favorites and branch out and explore new facets of the genre.

Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace 2019 Syllabus

America Times: Tempest, Beverly Jenkins

Because Witches: Witches of East End, Melissa de la Cruz

Consent Boner: The Countess Conspiracy, Courtney Milan

Cousin Stuff: Mastersons, Lisa Lang Blakely

Do They Got Reasons: Guilty Pleasures, Laurell K. Hamilton

England Times: The Duchess Deal, Tessa Dare

Herbs, Herbs, Herbs: Outlander, Diana Gabaldon

Highlander Times: The Highlander’s Bride, Amanda Forrester

Hufflepuff + Slytherin Love: Duke With Benefits, Manda Collins

Keep Being A Badass: When All The Girls Have Gone, Jayne Ann Krentz

Lady Love: Fried Green Tomatoes, Fannie Flagg

Medieval Times: Temptress, Lisa Jackson

Pirate Times: The Notorious Lady Anne, Sharon Cullen

Reindeer Mafia: Ruthless People, J.J. McAvoy

Sherlock Holmes Times: A Curious Beginning, Deanna Raybourn

Sportsball: Time out, Jill Shalvis

Virgin Duke: The Naked Duke, Sally MacKenzie

Werves: The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan

Western Times: Big Sky Mountain, Linda Lael Miller

#Problematic: I Thee Wed, Amanda Quick

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2019

BRRHC 2019 Syllabus

An epistolary novel or collection of letters – Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher

An alternate history novel – The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018 – Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, James Forman Jr.

A humor book – Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, Annie Spence

A book by a journalist or about journalism – A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America, T. Christian Miller

A book by an AOC set in or about space – Nigerians in Space, Deji Bryce Olukotun

An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America – The Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez

An #ownvoices book set in Oceania – A Long Way Home: A Memoir, Saroo Brierley

A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads – No Job For A Lady, Carol McCleary

A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman – Antigone by Sophokles, translated by Anne Carson

A book of manga – Vampire Hunter D, Hideyuki Kikuchi

A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a POV character – The Final Solution, Michael Chabon

A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse – The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, Naoki Higashida

A cozy mystery – Wicked Appetite, Janet Evanovich

A book of mythology or folklore – The Door in the Hedge, Robin McKinley

An historical romance by an AOC – Let Us Dream, Alyssa Cole

A business book – Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell

A novel by a trans or nonbinary author – Peter Darling, Austin Chant

A book of nonviolent true crime – Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger, Lee Israel

A book written in prison – De Profundis, Oscar Wilde

A comic by an LGBTQIA creator – Nimona, Noelle Stevenson

A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009 – Malala’s Magic Pencil, Malala Yousafzai

A self-published book – Frostfire, Amanda Hocking

A collection of poetry published since 2014 – Monument, Natasha Trethewey

 

“The beginning is always today.” ― Mary Shelley

This blog is nothing more than a little space carved out of the internet for me to share my thoughts on books I’m reading, literary news that comes out, and likely a lot of off-topic rambles as well. I earned my BA in lit and am currently working on my Master’s in clinical mental health counseling. Even though my field has changed, literature is still incredibly important to me and I want a way to continue to engage with it so here we are! If you like what you read, awesome! Stick around! Let’s see if I actually do this thing!