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Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

Julie Schumacher’s Satire of Higher Ed

Professor vents to his ‘Dear Committee Members’

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Written entirely in the form of recommendation letters by a down-on-his-luck English professor, Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher is a satirical glimpse into the hallowed halls of academia. The cynical writer behind these letters, Jason Fitger, works at a small Midwestern college facing budget cuts and dwindling admissions, and his own pent-up frustrations with his entire profession are apparent in the letters he is constantly asked to write on behalf of students and colleagues. The surly and passive-aggressive professor who pens these snarky letters for would-be graduates seeking first jobs or entrance into graduate school keeps copious notes on his students and supplements those with his own personal, disgruntled, off-topic opinions about academic life at the aptly named Payne University.

These alleged letters of support are both humorous and crotchety, written with a narrative progression that keeps the novel moving forward. This thin volume, composed of 100 letters, makes for laugh-out-loud reading at the same time as it poignantly captures the life of a struggling academic.

 Schumacher had written for numerous publications, including The Atlantic, MS and Minnesota Monthly. A graduate of Oberlin College and Cornell University, Schumacher currently teaches creative writing at the University of Minnesota. She will appear at Boswell Book Co. to discuss her newest book, Dear Committee Members at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 26.