Warning: Do not drink liquids while reading this book. Laughter makes this dangerous.
Schumacher’s novel is written in the form of letters from a beleaguered professor of English to a cast of thousands. Normally I don’t care for epistle fiction–too cut into bitty pieces–but this one has a narrative arc! And (spoiler alert) a poignant ending. I laughed until I cried.
The attention to detail in these funny, zippy, ripped-from-reality letters is so perfect. I loved the subtleties of how the prof (Jason Fitger) signs each letter, the understated sarcasm interspersed with blow-ups so honest no one in real life has ever done them–but we’ve all fantasized. Oh, how we’ve fantasized.
Among other places, Jason writes letters to assorted entry level places his students will go to work–funny in itself if you were an English major. Food service. Retail. Computer places.
My favorite was his letter for a girl who’d received an F for plagiarism. I’m not quoting it here, because you have to read it in context. But I taught that girl he describes so perfectly – five or six times, under different names in different years. Schumacher’s depiction is flawless.
Here instead is a letter in its entirety:
“October 16, 2009 Avengers Paintball, Inc. 1778 Industrial Blvd. Lakeville, MN 55044 Esteemed Avengers, This letter recommends Mr. Allen Trent for a position at your paintball emporium. Mr. Trent received a C– in my expository writing class last spring, which—given my newly streamlined and increasingly generous grading criteria—is quite the accomplishment. His final project consisted of a ten-page autobiographical essay on the topic of his own rageful impulses and his (often futile) attempts to control them. He cited his dentist and his roommate as primary sources. Consider this missive a testament to Mr. Trent’s preparedness for the work your place of business undoubtedly has in store. Hoping to maintain a distance of at least one hundred yards, Jason T. Fitger Professor of Creative Writing and English Payne University (“Teach ’til It Hurts”)”
Now go read the book. If you’re not in Academia, it’s still funny. If you are, it’s funnier than life. And good therapy.