The first thing I noticed was the paper. I was expecting it, because every review I read said it’s printed on nice paper, and it really is. Thick, rich, rough paper, the kind of paper that could probably absorb a teaspoon full of coffee per page, and still keep its structural integrity.
Sort of like the rest of the book, really. Joey Comeau is a Writer with a capital W. His webcomic A Softer World established him years ago as the sort of person who knows exactly where our nerves are, and who can make us feel euphoric or miserable with one phrase, and he delights in it. Overqualified, the book with the really nice paper, is the same way.
Overqualified is a collection of cover letters to companies Joey wants to work for. Some of them actually got sent, but I don’t know that anyone offered him a job. I’m not certain I would. Reading these cover letters is like looking at a snail without a shell: There’s Joey, completely naked, and it’s fascinating and a little bit stomach churning. He doesn’t bother with the usual things that everyone else says in cover letters- what a good worker he is, or how much his old company loved him, or how much money he’ll bring in, but instead he might tell you about his habit of impersonating teenage girls on Yahoo Chat so he can flirt with other men, or how he is a revisionist who makes up his past as he goes, or that Apple should make a computer that won’t let you drunk-email your ex.
The fun part of this book is that you can read it in any order. Each letter fits another piece into the puzzle that is Joey, but they don’t build on each other- only on Joey and his brother Adrian. Joey’s brother comes up a lot- sometimes he’s dead, sometimes he’s been badly injured and is a vegetable, and once he gets better. In a way, Overqualified is about Joey’s relationship with his brother, which is cut short when Adrian is injured and maybe killed. By the end of book we don’t know what happened to Adrian, or whether he’s still alive, but we know that Joey is not done with him yet. We’re not certain where it will end because he is not certain. All Joey knows is that this is how things are, and that is all he tells us, and it is enough.
Overqualified made me love Joey Comeau. Not because he’s a great guy, or because I’m attracted to him, or because I think he has something important to say, but because he is not ashamed of who he is. His book is uncomfortable sometimes, and weird most of the time, and often very, very honest. I wouldn’t hire Joey, but I love him.
About the author:
Anselm Engle is a chronic academic and acute writer from Sacramento. His nonfiction writing has appeared in a number of electronic and text publications, and he has recently had a fiction piece picked up by Valley Public Radio for a dramatic reading. When he isn’t reading and writing, he’s studying writing at Sacramento State University, or tutoring aspiring writers at the Sac State writing center.