Not long after I wrote the post on my love of letters I read the epistolary novel, Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. She writes about an English and Creative Writing professor at a small, undistinguished liberal arts college who tells “his story” through a series of letters of recommendations written on behalf of his students and colleagues.
The novel is hugely funny from the first letter to the last. Schumacher reveals the misery within an underfunded and under-appreciated English department, the hapless students with dim prospects in a tech-fueled economy, and the droll machinations of university politics. Added to the mix is the spiraling downturn of personal lives of those both young and old seeking a life “in letters.”
Schumacher has done a brilliant job of creating a compelling narrative arc within the confines of the letters of her witty and self-deprecating protagonist. Like all great comedy, tragedy hovers just below the surface. This novel is both entertaining and poignant. I often laughed out loud, though by the end, this novel tugged at my heart.