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Canadian writer compiles cover letters in new book

By Liv Ingram, November 17 2015 — 

ECW Press

ECW Press

Finding a job can be tedious, soul-crushing work. You scan endless ads that seek highly-motivated individuals more closely resembling robots than actual people. You reduce your personality to a series of buzzwords, write a cover letter and apply. And then you try really hard to be that person in order to get hired.

But what if you didn’t try that hard, or if you did the complete opposite — what if you were honest? What if you included all your fears, neuroses and idiosyncrasies in those cover letters? You’d be left with something like Overqualifieder, the latest collection of unconventional cover letters from Joey Comeau.

Overqualifieder is the follow-up to 2009’s Overqualified, an experimental novel that charts the narrator’s declining mental health due to his brother’s death and his disintegrating romantic relationship through a series of wildly inappropriate cover letters. And after wrapping up his successful web comic, A Softer World, earlier this year, Comeau is back on the job market with gusto.

Instead of having an overarching story, each cover letter in Overqualifieder features its own distinctly bizarre narrator, leaving you to create their backstory. Comeau has a knack for drawing you in with the usual banality of a cover letter before launching into unexpected and shocking tangents that reveal unhireable traits.

The book’s back cover claims the police once showed up at Comeau’s door after he sent one of these letters, and it’s hard not to wonder which entry caught the attention of the authorities. Was it the one where he explains selling haunted cars filled with dead businessmen and pigeons to old ladies in his application to Toyota? Or killing his friend for not returning his video rentals on time and then carving a poem about it into the guy’s back with a knife in his pitch to a security company? It’s hard to say.

Some of Comeau’s letters are addressed to massive companies like Walmart, Amazon and Disney, and Comeau sent them all. None have ever replied. If one of these letters came across my desk, I’d call him for an interview — just to see what kind of madman sends a letter like that.

Life is about stories, and Overqualifieder is filled with some great ones. The book is wildly creative and uncensored, straddling the line between hilarious and disturbing. Comeau is a clever and inventive writer, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to have a literary crush on him by the end of this book.

Instead of one story told through a collection of letters like Overqualified, the sequel gives you multiple unstable narrators and stories. While this allows Comeau to make each letter more eccentric and outlandish than the last, it also makes for more of a disjointed read. There was something charmingly sad about watching one person’s decline in the cover letters of Overqualified, and that linear progression is missing in the sequel.

But this difference doesn’t make Overqualifeder bad. It’s funny, weird and gutsy. You’ll find yourself rereading it as soon as you’re finished — wishing you were brazen enough to attach your name to something this defiant.

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