Pictures from an Institution

Julie Schumacher Dear Committee Members

Dear Reader,
Buy the book, give it as a gift, loan out your copy, order it from the library. This epistolary novel is a laugh out loud tale not just for academics, but all walks of life. You may spend an enjoyable afternoon reading, but I preferred short bits, perhaps 4 or five letters at a time. (It’s only 200 pages, but best if not digested all at once). If you have any connection to the Ivory Towers you will recognize the biting satire, social criticism, and frustrating quagmire of politics and funding. It could easily be a diary.

The letters are quite clever, and reveal much about the writer, as an academic, as a husband, lover, teacher, at once observant while equally oblivious, generous but also petty, happy but unfulfilled. One third of the letters are letters of recommendation, which in and of themselves reveal a great deal of society and expectations today. Sadly. I kept reading me to see how much damage he could do…. As a whole, it has a bitter edge, is a rather lacerating commentary on academic life but also full of human foibles, entertaining yet poignant. And lost. No one writes letters anymore; we have several generations that cannot compose an email let alone a letter. In retrospect, it was funny while I was reading it.

But I hope you will pick up this book and enjoy this lighthearted but thought provoking read.

A Reader
3.5 stars (note- this book also doesn’t work well as an audio book- I barely glanced at who they were addressed to, but the addresses are properly read out, delaying the amusement of the letter.)

Read on
For other epistolary novels: Jonathan Miles Dear American Airlines (2008), Maria Semple Where’d you go Bernadette? (2012) Joey Corneau Overqualified (2009).
Fans of David Foster Wallace should like this.
Reminiscent (campus, academic, literary lives) of Richard Russo Straight Man (1997, who also favorably reviewed Miles), Sam Lipsyte HomeLand (2004), Jincy Willet’s Winner of the National Book Award (2002, recommended by Nancy Pearl).

Read as an ARC ebook from NETGALLY


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