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Buy This Book (Book Review: Overqualified) by Ray Printer Friendly

I was going to start this review out with something witty, maybe something a little dirty. Something like, "Reading Joey Comeau's book Overqualified is like losing your virginity to an ugly girl: it's fun and awesome and it leaves you feeling strangely sad for the next few days."

But there are people all over the internet who have started out with things way more clever than anything I could come up with. So how I'd like to start out instead is:

You need to read Overqualified. You don't want to buy it, I guess I can understand that--times are hard all over. But you should find a way to read this book. I'd offer to lend you mine, but screw that. There are some books that are meant to be lent out. Some books, you close the back cover, and you know, you just know that you should immediately pass them on. On The Road. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Books like that. Overqualified is also a book like that.

Problem is, I always hate passing those books on. So like I said, you aren't getting my copy.

But you really should get someone's. Maybe your own, if I have anything to do with it.

It isn't exactly a novel, but it's definitely a story. See, it's a bunch of cover letters. But it isn't one of those stupid things like people who write fake letters to corporations in order to get silly responses. Or whatever those books do, I don't know. Literary fart jokes, I guess is what they are. Overqualified isn't like that. I mean, it has its fart-joke moments, which are totally pimp, but it also has the slow-burn intelligent build-up that catches you off guard and makes you laugh Cherry 7-Up out your nose.

For me, the story actually started on the back cover. It goes like this (straight-up jacked from Comeau's website):

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 childhood and 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.

Inside, the story begins in earnest, and it makes you laugh, like really laugh, the kind of thing where if you're the type of person who wrote "LOL," you'd totally write it when texting about it to a friend later.

And then it turns on you.

Because you'll be right there in the middle of a laugh, and the smile freezes right where it is because it's so sad all the sudden that your face doesn't have time to keep up with what you're feeling. And before you can even work up tears, he's moving on again, and you're laughing your ass off, but you're still on guard, you still don't want to open yourself up for that surprise sad.

It's a lot like life that way.

You don't know what to expect--might be funny, might be heart-breaking. But dammit if it isn't interesting.

I bought this book a while back, and I've been meaning to write about it since it arrived. Honestly, I've been meaning to write about it since before I even purchased it. I wasn't sure how it was going to be. I was ready to link to the "buy it" page and tell you that you might as well, what the hell else do you have to do with your cash.

Or I was ready to say not to waste your money--all the hype that I'd seen online was bullshit.

I was ready to be indifferent about it--buy it if you're a fan of A Softer World, it's not bad, but whatever.

What I didn't plan on was being touched by a book. What I mean by "touched" is that I slowly put the book down, and I chewed the corner of my lip, like I do when I think a little too hard, and stroked my chin--a habit so addictive that I had my first nephew doing it when he was two years old and didn't even have any facial hair to stroke while he pondered.

I thought about things. My life, mostly. What it was, what it wasn't, what I wanted out of it. I thought about my failings, and I thought about the areas in which I consider myself a success. I thought about sitting on the roof and looking up at the setting moon and kissing a girl. I thought about heartbreak, and loss, and happy times--which, once they're over with, are a lot like heartbreak and loss.

I thought about a lot of shit, is what I'm saying.

And that's what I look for in a book, is something that makes me think and something that makes me feel. Overqualified did both.

I'm not saying it'll have the same effect on you, but I'm saying you should drop the ten bucks to find out. Hey, here's even a convenient link.

Because--and this is how I should have started this review--Joey Comeau's Overqualified is like a prostitute for your soul: You spend the cash, and you get a ride. Maybe you'll feel a little weird about it later, but it's totally worth it.


posted 10/26/09


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