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Joey Comeau’s newest book, Overqualifieder, is the second collection of cover letters Comeau has put out, following in the footsteps of similarly titled, Overqualified. I picked it as a fan of the Canadian author’s other work, namely a web series called “A Softer World.” Despite my high hopes, I ended up disappointed.
When I opened up this little collection of cover letters, I was met immediately with the “Dear Reader,” where Comeau notes that every letter was sent to a real employer. I’ll admit that’s an interesting concept. Once I started reading the stories, however, I found myself bored, confused and annoyed. The entire project was rather juvenile. I didn’t find it to be funny or cute, but rather simply self-indulgent. Even the title is contrived. “Overqualifieder” is a neologism, meant to be a smart attempt to dub this as a follow-up to his first piece.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy tacking suffixes onto every word I can but this one is not enticing in the least. Despite this fallacy, I think that it does exactly what a title is supposed to do: summarize what is inside for the casual bookstore browser. Be assured that the content of this book is just as trite as the title.
A lot of the content aims at jolting the reader. I have read Comeau’s other works, and I can distinctly recall another short story about the rape of a ghost. He did what he intended to do: he wrote a story that was scandalous enough to stick with the reader. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it stuck with me for good reason, though. A common theme for Comeau is to write uninteresting stories, with attempts at shock-value to intrigue the audience. He has an affinity for producing perverted postulations in the form of stories as a sort of catharsis. This would be intriguing if he were to be pioneering this sort of thing. Yet, he isn’t doing that at all — we’ve all read Guts by Chuck Palahniuk. We get it.
Don’t get me wrong — I love visceral descriptions and writings that discuss taboo ideas. The perverted descriptions of sexually exploiting people and killing yourself with electric radios in bathtubs aren’t what make this collection of writing awful. I’m the first one to talk about masturbation loudly in a public setting, but Comeau simply seems to lack any subtlety.
Comeau’s earlier work on the “A Softer World” comic series was reminiscent of this collection, but his style worked much better in a short format of only a few lines. Over the years, I found that the ASW comics were hit or miss – but mostly hit, which is what kept me reading for so long. It’s unfortunate to watch an artist do something different, but not succeed in the same way.
I’ve been thinking that maybe Overqualifieder is the type of piece that is more of a formative work like Catcher in the Rye. I mean, if you don’t read that shit before the age of 19, you’ll end up hating Holden’s whiney, bad fuckin’ attitude. But, then again, if that is the case, wouldn’t now be the right time to read Comeau’s book? I mean, I’m out here in my fourth year of university, mere months away from trying to find some mediocre job with my English degree, and yet this book still doesn’t strike a cord with me.
I found myself asking the same question throughout the entire collection: why did he actually send these letters? He’s just wasting the company’s time with these pieces, giving himself fuel, and content for his books.
Comeau’s Overqualifieder is the type of book I would see at Chapters, pick up off the shelf simply for the aesthetic of the cover and for the name printed on it, flip through a few pages, and then put back.