Epistolary works are one of the Western novel’s oldest forms; the first novel ever written in Canada, Frances Brooke’s The History of Emily Montague (1769), is one. Authors still write them now, however ironically, but a story crafted from stringing together a sequence of job application letters—especially suicidal, in career terms, job application letters—still stands out. In fact, Joey Comeau’s collection of real cover letters, Overqualified (ECW Press) is pretty much sui generis. Not to mention sweetly written, bitter and bitterly funny. The quasi-psychotic opening letter to Irving Oil, perhaps every Acadian writer’s natural target, sets the tone (“my assigned mission is to take you down from the inside”). But Comeau best matches style and content to employer with two brilliant applications, one to the New York Times (“I will make a very good editor for your company, whether you hire me or not.”) and another to Hallmark (suggested greeting card: front cover with to-do list, including “Tell my lady that she means the world to me;” inside text: “Apologize for pressuring her into a threesome.”). And if Comeau is not quite as good at integrating his story—the letter writer, distraught because his younger brother, hit by a drunk driver, lies between life and death in a hospital, turns his search for work into a catharsis—across his letters, it’s only because he has set his own bar so high. One of the season’s most remarkable books.
Joey Comeau’s writing can also be found on the website a softer world.