Dear Fellow Readers:
I am pleased to endorse to you the short little epistolary novel, “Dear Committee Members.” This book will most likely be hilarious if you are familiar with the onuses and whims of bureaucratic academia, as the narrator, Mr. Jason Fitger, is one of the (few) tenured members of the English Department in a small, midwestern college. However, it would also be enjoyable for people who enjoy acerbic wit. Undoubtedly, whatever your persuasion, you will find this work a quick, diverting read.
Mr. Fitger is often hilarious in his carefully worded but politically insensate language. For instance, in describing the English Department to the new department chair, he notes a third of the staff are ineligible for the position, and “the remaining two-thirds of the faculty, bearing the scars of disenfranchisement and long-term abuse, are busy tending to personal grudges like scraps of carrion on which they gnaw in the gloom of their offices.”
The remarkable thing about Mr. Fitger, of course, is the strange double think he operates under. In one letter, for instance, he requests his literary agent take a look at the initial chapters of a protege’s book. A few sentences later, he apologizes then adds, “Well, never mind. Water under the bridge and all that; I’m sure the twelve-year-old you assigned the task of evaluating my work did her utmost.” He is what you get when you remove impulse control from a highly literate writer.
If you will permit me a minor digression, I recently had a conversation with a notable person, shall we say, a student of the mind, who suggested that as individuals, we tell ourselves stories about what others around us are thinking. These stories often represent or reaffirm our own world view rather than true curiosity of another’s experience. So if I would note that Jason seems somewhat disenfranchised from his own life and somewhat socially inept, am I just reaffirming a preferred story? However, there was a point two-thirds through the book when I realized the narrator was a bit of an ass. It’s not my preferred way of interpreting the world, but how else can you explain a recommendation letter for a colleague applying for an associate dean position in which he answers the question, “Context of My Acquaintanceship” by saying, “Carole and I slept together–without cohabiting or making promises we would be unable to honor–for almost three years.”
That said, the end seemed a bit forced in the direction of a mostly happy ending, consisting as it did of a significant amount of personal growth. Personally, I remain disbelieving, but I suppose all things are possible. However, as I found the overall story clever and engaging, I would not hesitate to recommend “Dear Committee Members.”
In solidarity for reading amusement,
P.S. Emma Deplores GR Censorship nails the analysis of the book (here)