Tag Archives: satire

Break In Case of Emergency: On Being 32 and Childless (and not on purpose)

Break In Case of Emergency is funny. You’ll read it and laugh at the satire of office life. You’ll laugh a little at the portrayal of income inequality in 30 something friend groups (that sudden realization that your friends make way more (or less) money than you do; or that your friend inherited a heap of money and so never has to think about whether to replace their air conditioner). You’ll chuckle at the representation of hipster politics: the effort to be *seen doing good. It’s the story of Jen – 30 something artist, who starts the novel unemployed and begins working at a (parody of) nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of (all) women. The novel offers sharp observations on white, middle class feminism, on the changing dimensions of female friendship and a whole heap of a lot about fertility. Jen wants a baby. A lot. And she’s infertile. (and some stuff about New York, but who cares).
I guess if you’re an any-age someone you could stand to read this novel for how it demonstrates the extent to which (young-ish) women are bombarded All. The. Time. by messages about their (in)fertile bodies, the judgements heaped upon these bodies for reproducing (or not), the myriad of outrageous and hurtful things that get said out of assumptions about why you have (or more obviously haven’t) had a baby. Continue reading


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Filed under American literature, Fiction, Funny, Popular Posts, Reader Request

Dear Committee Members: Drop out of University and Get a Job Alreadyear


If only it was as funny to be a part of the dying university as it is to read about the death in Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members. A lot of my job can be likened to the orchestra aboard the sinking Titanic. Rather than changing the conditions – fixing the massive hole in the hull – my job is to distract and soothe (entertain?), but without drawing too much attention to the need for distraction.

Dear Committee Members is a distraction trying very hard to draw attention to the flooding lower decks. An one-side epistolary novel, the story is the whip smart satire of the contemporary university (in particular the Humanities) attempting (badly) to grapple with declining funding, increased enrollments, ‘job-ready skills’ and the promised-not-yet-delivered panacea of technology. Taking about two hours to read, the book is the fastest way you can get a sense of what it’s like to be a humanities PhD in 2015: hilarious(ly heartbreaking/dream-crushing).

The book skewers the disparity within the university between high-profile/high-budget programs and those lesser cousins, takes on the nepotism that undergirds hiring (and tenure) processes and questions the purpose of the university as either job-skills or big ideas (and the validity of the binary itself), by marshalling forth the glut of reference letters a single professor in the creative writing program at a middling university must write over the course of one year. The letters are funny. Very funny. Funny because they show the extent of the damage and the absurdity of a single professor scooping water with a paper cup. And yet scoop he must.

I’m not sure the novel has yet committed to the need to get on the lifeboats; it holds hope for the future of the university. And because we all know I’m secretly an optimist (not a secret), and that I have a yet unshakeable (if probably pathological) belief in the university, I loved the steadfast resolve that concludes the novel. And I love the idea that satire can push us to improve, to ask us whether students might not only deserve something better, but actually get something better. So read it. Then get out and get involved with federal (provincial and local) politics. There’s an election coming and I’d rather not have to swim.

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Filed under Fiction, Funny