In the inaugural issue of Catapult, I offer advice on how to write a recommendation letter:
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to recommend to you a novel by Julie Schumacher with the marvelous title Dear Committee Members.
This is an entertaining epistolary novel made up entirely of that least promising of forms, letters of recommendation. The sender of these letters is Jason Fitger, a cantankerous professor of creative writing. He belongs to a recognizable type: an early book he wrote met with success but his productivity has since dwindled, if not entirely vanished. Fitger is employed at a less-than-distinguished institution in the Midwest with a telling name, Payne University.
The letters go out to a vice provost, department chairs, a literary agent, managers of grocery stores and other captains of industry overlooking dead-end jobs, even former girlfriends in positions of power in administration. Because Fitger is an uninhibited over-sharer, the novel’s narrative advances easily. He presents us at every turn a vivid picture of the academic workplace as a disaster zone, of literature as a beleaguered discipline, and last, but not least, the writer as truth-teller.