Everyone I’ve spoken to about this book has said the same thing: It’s hilarious. You’ll love it.
The story is a simple one: the reader follows Jay Fitger, an English professor at a small Midwestern liberal-arts college, entirely through letters of recommendation he writes for various people. I will give everyone this: the fact that the reader gets so much about Jay, his life situation and his personality entirely through letters is quite genius. Also, there is a sense of passing time, but also the kind of responses Jay is getting, without seeing those. These are entirely one-sided letters, and yet I felt like I got a complete picture of everyone in Jay’s life, from his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend to the woman he had an affair with and modeled a despicable character in one of his novels after.
However, that wasn’t enough to make me love this. Humor is a very particular thing, and this one didn’t strike me as funny because it just hit too close to home. My husband is a professor in a small department in a struggling liberal-arts college in the Midwest, which made what could have been funny simply depressing. My theory is that you think this book is funnier the further away from academia you are. But for those of us in the humanities, or at struggling small colleges, it’s just not funny. It’s Truth. And while sometimes Truth can be funny, this time it wasn’t.
Rated: High because of implied adult situations and about a half-dozen f-bombs.