Dear Committee Members

9780345807335_p0_v1_s192x300If you’ve ever asked for a letter of recommendation – or had to write one, you can appreciate the humor of Dear Committee Members. I personally have never written one, but had to ask for several when apply to grad school. This book is a collection of fictional hilarious recommendation letters – ranging from job recommendation for their students, to recommendation letters for their coleagues who are sometimes working on new novels, and sometimes up for promotions within their department. Each one is hilarious – and some of them are downright ridiculous.

If you majored in English, or even took an English/literature/rhetoric class and remember how pretentious some professors can be, you will laugh.  The collection of letters is not written by one professor, but the group of professors who work in the same department. The professors are self-important and self-involved, reminding me of some of the worst professors I’ve had, and some that I currently work with. Another thing that is so familiar is the sad state of the liberal arts. Those students who major in liberal arts find themselves upon graduation struggling to find jobs.

“Which I gather is hiring adjunct faculty members exclusively, bypassing the tenure track with its attendant health benefits, job security, and salaries on which a human being might reasonably live. Perhaps your insitutiton should cut to the chase and put its entire curriculum online, thereby sparing Ruefle the need to move to Lattimore, wherever that is. You could prop him up in a broom closet in his apartment, poke him with the butt end of a mop when you need him to cough up a lecture.”

Their department is underfunded, under appreciated, and under respected (if that’s a thing), as are most liberal arts departments. Most of the major funding for colleges and universities these days seems to go to the sciences. And that’s understandable, but there’s an argument in so many of these letters reminding readers just how important English and literature are. And it’s so true – and something I can so relate to. In my own department there have been budget cuts, staffing cuts, as the college has “restructured” degree programs, allowing most students to graduate with fewer liberal arts credits.

Is English dying? That seems to be the conclusion, and the common link between all of these letters. There’s so much snark in everything that was written, the book is pretty hilarious.  I loved this book so much – it’s going to stay on my shelf until one day I need a really good laugh!


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