Monday, March 30, 2009

I Read This--OVERQUALIFIED (2009)

Despite the black mark of being recommended by Warren Ellis, Joey Comeau's A Softer World is an intriguing use of the comics form--usually dark, occasionally funny, and occasionally disturbingly so.

It's a thread that runs through many of his work, perhaps even more concentrated in his collection of resume cover letters, Overqualified, now out in convenient book form and, amusingly, printed on resume paper.

Overqualified's basic conceit is that Joey Comeau has come unglued slightly following the loss of his girlfriend and the death of his brother, and in searching for gainful employment, has begun to share perhaps a little too much in his cover letters. The juxtaposition between the intensely personal ramblings of the possibly unhinged in the most facile and homogeneous of documents leads ultimately to the (often very black) humour.

I'll let Comeau say it, as he can get his point across better than me:

"Cover letters are all the same. They're useless. You write the same lies over and over again, listing the store-bought parts of yourself that you respect the least. God knows how they tell anyone apart, but this is how it's done.

"And then one day a car comes out of nowhere, and suddenly everything changes and you don't know if he'll ever wake up. You get out of bed in the morning, and when you sit down to write another paint-by-numbers cover letter, something entirely different comes out.

"You start threatening instead of begging. You tell impolite jokes. You talk about your sexual fantasies. You sign your real name and you put yourself honestly into letter after letter and there is no way you are ever going to get this job. Not with a letter like this.

And you send it anyway."

Initially, Comeau actually sent these letters out to companies, and those can be read here. The novel takes some of those letters and welds them into something of a coherent narrative (well, in a sense) which is no less hilarious, just slightly less anarchic than the web version was.

If you're one of the uninitiated, or if A Softer World's humour doesn't appeal (there's an absolute deadpan earnestness to it that doesn't scream "this is a joke" from every corner) it's a hard sell to make. On the other hand, if you do like that kind of humour, or (and this is the level at which it worked for me) if you hate writing cover letters so much that you often fantasize about doing something similar, then this is the book for you.


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

How... theraputic. :)

Kazekage said...

I thought so. :) Certainly helped me work through resume-related angst.