Friday, December 19, 2014

Maureen Corrigan's top 12 books of 2014

One of Maureen Corrigan's twelve favorite books of 2014:
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

One of the reasons Dear Committee Members is such a mordant minor masterpiece is that Julie Schumacher had the brainstorm to structure it as an epistolary novel. This book of letters is composed of a year's worth of recommendations that our antihero — a weary professor of creative writing and literature — is called upon to write for junior colleagues, lackluster students and even former lovers. The gem of a law school recommendation letter professor Jason Fitger writes for a cutthroat undergrad whom he's known for all of "eleven minutes" is alone worth the price of Schumacher's book.

Schumacher has a sharp ear for the self-pitying eloquence peculiar to academics like the fictional Fitger, who feel that their genius has never gotten its due. His resentment seeps out between the lines of the recommendation letters he relentlessly writes — or ineptly fills out on computerized questionnaires — urging RV parks and paintball emporiums to hire his graduating English majors for entry-level management positions. Dear Committee Members serves up the traditional satisfactions of classic academic farces like David Lodge's Small World and Kingsley Amis' immortal Lucky Jim, but it also updates the genre to include newer forms of indignity within the halls of academe.
Read about another book on the list.

Dear Committee Members is among Kate DiCamillo's 3 favorite books of 2014 and Ellen Wehle's four top novels "in which teachers and students run just a little bit off the rails."

The Page 69 Test: Dear Committee Members.

--Marshal Zeringue