The second book in Schumacher’s humorous college campus series, following Professor Jason Fitger, now Chair of the Department of English.
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher is the follow up novel to Dear Committee Members, centered around a pitiable English Professor, now Chair of his department, at Payne University, where attempts are being made to oust the English Department from the school’s required courses.
A new semester is about to start and Jason T. Fitger is now Chair of the Department of English at Payne University. And he thought last year was bad. Now he has to deal with the encroaching Economics Department, just one floor above, who’s Chair, Roland Gladwell, seems hellbent on ousting English entirely from the building. Not to mention, Fitger’s ex-wife, Janet, is now dating the Dean.
Now, he has to put together a Statement of Vision for the department (and actually get all the English professors to agree on it!), as well as teach classes, deal with his new, prickly secretary who keeps bringing animals to the office, and not to mention someone has vandalized one of his colleague’s Shakespeare posters. He’s in over his head and with the English Department’s future resting on his ill-equipped shoulders, will Fitger even survive the year?
This was a book I had placed on my TBR because I’d read the first book in the series (Dear Committee Members) and when I finally opened it up after all that time in between, I was a little disappointed to see that the format was different. The first book was written in the epistolary style (all through emails, article clippings, etc). But this book was written just straight prose, hopping PoVs all over the place within a chapter. And while it was still a funny book, I didn’t care for it as much as the first, perhaps maily because of the format change.
I found the bewildering conundrums effecting Fitger to be hilarious and pitiable at the same time, the desired effect, I believe, the author was going for. Overall, though, there was less interest for me. The story dragged a bit and I wasn’t as invested in the new cast of characters. I felt myself less concerned with the outcome of the book and that was disappointing. I think that there was still a fun parody of college woes happening, with lots of fun being poked at being Chair of a department, the difficulties of having no budget to speak of, etc.
If readers haven’t before read Dear Committee Members, this story will probably not appeal to them as much. I think the only reason I kept going with this book (in addition to my reading it for a particular reading challenge) was that I had some previous investment in Fitger and a few others from having read the previous book. Otherwise, I might have dropped this one after a few chapters.
Literary Value: 4/5
Let it be said that Schumacher knows her stuff when it comes to writing. Her vocabulary is superb and I was looking up words constantly – a good thing, I assure you. I like to learn new words. I found her way of writing in this book to be interesting, with often the dialogue being not in quotations, but merely explained, like so:
Did he have the pleasure of speaking to Ms. Janet Matthias?
Yes. How could she help him?
Ah! Excellent. He was delighted to meet her. Might he sit down?The Shakespeare Requirement, pg. 135
Most of the book is like this which, while not annoying to me, might be annoying to other readers. It was certainly a trip. I think it fit well with the subject matter, though, which is why I just went with it.
Otherwise, I think the writing was pretty good. I found that the plot was well put together, made sense, and each character was thoroughly explored and their actions suited their motives. I do think, though, that this writing style might not appeal to the average reader. It’s very involved and not exactly fun to read – even though Schumacher is very humorous and I did find several insights throughout the book to be amusing. Such as:
A Frisbee thwoked against the window…What was it about Frisbee, he wondered, that undergraduates never tired of or outgrew? Year after year, chipper and shirtless on the quad, they hurled a plastic disk back and forth while the planet hurtled toward its fiery end.The Shakespeare Requirement, pg. 5
Entertainment Factor: 3/5
I enjoyed portions of this book. I think the main issue was I didn’t find it as entertaining as I did the first book. I found myself putting it down a lot more often than I had expected I would and I felt a bit stalled after the first few chapters. I think the story didn’t pick up enough steam to carry me through till right after midway through the book. Otherwise, I found many moments in the story that were funny and clever.
Mostly, though, this was just a “Meh” book to me.
Cover Art Rating: 4/5
I love the cover – I think it’s flashy and eye-catching and it sort of captures the overall spirit of the novel, which focuses on the decline of English and the Fitger’s attempts to bring together this mishmash group of English professors, each who has their own area of study that they love. The vandalizing of the Shakespeare poster is the catalyst for one of the main conflicts of the story. Again, it’s a minimalist cover, which is one of my favorite things, and I like how stylized it looks. It’s definitely more appealing to me than what the story ends up being!
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
For the most part, I liked this book. I think it was well written, I enjoyed the plot, mostly, and I though that it was a good second book in this series – I don’t know if there’ll be another book after. There was humor, but I felt a bit let down by the ensemble cast, most of whom I didn’t particularly care about. So really, I won’t go out of my way to recommend this book. I’ll mostly be directing people to read the first book, which I found to be much more interesting. That being said, I feel like this book series, and the humor/parody it provides, is really geared toward a specific audience. I probably only found a certain portion of this book funny because I’m not the target audience (a college professor, I think, would be the ideal audience, someone who’s lived through this stuff).
So, the long and the short of it is that I liked the book but it wasn’t the best and feel free to read it if you like parodies.
Have you read Schumacher’s first book, Dear Committee Members? Have you read this one? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below if you plan on reading this or passing on it.