21 October 2022

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

I can't remember at all who recommended this, but it was some author online that I respect and I added it to my list right away. It's been touted for it's comedy and I was looking forward to reading something light and funny.

This book is written as a series of letters of recommendation from a creative writing professor about his various students (and even faculty peers). This format is a huge turn off for me as I relate it more closely to a book of poetry than a novel. I ended up just starting another novel over top of it and reading a few of these letters every evening before bed.

I haven't published a novel in six years; instead, I fill my departmental hours casting words of praise into the bureaucratic abyss. On multiple occasions, serving on awards committees, I was actually required to write LORs to myself."

The letters are incredibly funny and I think it has to do with being a grad school grad myself. Its a niche group of people that go to graduate school, especially for an Arts program. Meg and I met doing our MAs and you get to intimately know your peers and the program's faculty. I think it would take this experience to appreciate the humour of this book

Julie Schumacher, a creative writing professor from the University of Minnesota

The narrator is a bit of a jaded asshole, as most creative writing professors I have met have been. He's tired, frustrated with funding, and thinks most of his students are useless and lazy. Again, if you've been in an Arts program at University, especially a graduate arts program, you can imagine exactly the type of person I'm talking about. 

I shall wish her well and be the first to welcome her to 'the writing life,' which, despite its horrors, is possibly one of the few sorts of lives worth living at all."

My biggest criticism of the book is just that nobody would actually write these letters. The type of stuff he writes is more reminiscant of the way faculty would discuss students over a bottle of wine with people they trust. You'd never put half these things on paper despite how many times you may think them. They are funny, but I am not into the type of humour that exceeds reality really. 

I also felt like it became really repetitive using the same one professor throughout. It would have been better to include a few different personalities, because I sort of felt like "ok bud, I got it" after the first ~10.

Mr. Leszczynski attended class faithfully, arriving on time, and rarely succumbed to the undergraduate impulse to check his cell phone for messages or relentlessly zip and unzip his backpack in the final minutes of class."

I liked reading these but I think it would only be enjoyable broken up the way I did it, and I really think only for people who have been in an Arts and/or graduate program. It would make a great gift for your thesis supervisor, colleague in academia, or for a liberal program graduation, but beyond that I'm not sure I would recommend it. I am still interested in reading her follow-up novel with the same narrator, The Shakespeare Requirement

Dear Ms. Maslow: Though I prefer to send letters of recommendation via the U.S. Postal Service, now considered by many to be as quaint as muttonchop whiskers and the butter churn, I hereby accede to your request for an e-mail evaluation of Quentin Eshe."

One thing I know for sure is that if this professor were real Meg and I would have had the most insane crush on him during our MA program. 

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