Dear Committee Members is a novel entirely made up of letters of recommendation written by Jason Fitger, a disgruntled professor of creative writing at Payne University. While the English department is being cut left, right, and centre, the Economics department on the floor above is being remodelled, causing the English floor to become something of a hazard zone. He’s pissed he has to write so many letters of recommendation. He’s pissed that his writing career is basically over. He’s pissed that his ‘star’ student can’t get a break, while a student he doesn’t think much of signs a lucrative publishing contract. He’s pissed at his exes (generally in positions of power), at his colleagues, and the elevated status and wealth of the economics department compared to his own. (It’s true that business/economics always has more money. At the university where I work, the business school is the only building on campus with luxury toilet paper in the loos.)
I was told this was a cross between Stoner and Where’d You Go Bernadette? and it kind of is – if Stoner (the man) always took the path of most, rather than least, resistance. I love an unlikeable narrator, when it works, and this one does. He’s arrogant and passive aggressive, with a trail of ex-partners and colleagues he’s alienated at one time or another who he unfortunately needs to contact for help. He does change over the course of the book, becoming increasingly arsey, and then beginning to see things in a different way (though still, thankfully, retaining some of his core arsey-ness).
It’s a quick read but began to feel a little repetitive half-way through. I could have read it in one sitting but I think I would have enjoyed it less that way. I definitely noticed myself starting to get tired of it, but then really liking it again when I picked it back up.
As I’ve said before I’m a bit of a sucker for campus-based novels. This is a light, funny, little-bit-sad, read – particularly recommended if you’ve ever worked in academia.
Dear Committee Members is out now in ebook, and published in hardback on 23rd October 2014.