Dear Committee Members

[Amazon Link]

I heard good things, at some point in the past, about this book. Might have been this WSJ review or this WSJ review. I didn't find it as riotously funny as the reviewers, but maybe I was in a sour mood.

The author, Julie Schumacher, is a professor of Creative Writing and English at the University of Minnesota. Her protagonist, Jason Fitger, is a (male) professor of Creative Writing and English at (fictional) Payne University. Thumbs up to Prof Schumacher for writing from a gendered POV not her own!

It's an "epistolary" novel, consisting of (mostly) letters and (some) web forms into which Jason pours his distressed, peevish, soul. He will write letters of recommendation for just about anyone, including Melanie deRueda.

I've known Ms. deRueda for eleven minutes, ten of which were spent in a fruitless attempt to explain to her that I write letters of recommendation only for students who have signed up for and completed one of my classes. This young woman is certainly tenacious, if that's what you're looking for.

Jason's character is slowly revealed via correspondence with his ex-wife and ex-girlfriends, academic colleagues he's accumulated over the years. His sputtered-out literary career becomes apparent. He's particularly dedicated to nurturing the writing career of a student who's in the process of a "shattering reinterpretation of 'Bartleby'", titled Accountant in a Bordello: the poor updated scrivener works in a whorehouse outside Vegas. Things don't work out well.

It's an easy read, 180 pages with a lot of whitespace. Denizens of English departments at institutions of higher education might especially relate. (But hopefully not; Jason's life is not a pretty one.)