My rides to work and school on the subway now seem to comprise all of my current reading time. I prefer something absorbing and a little escapist for these rides, as the train is sometimes crowded, loud and/or smelly and I need something that pulls me in.
So, the other day I pulled Overqualified, by one of my favorite comics writers and birthday twin, off of the unread shelf and ran to the train. When I finally settled into my molded plastic seat, I expected to get a little jolt of work-sucks catharsis before I hit the office.
Instead I got hit with a dead-brother story—a grief story—told in increasingly desperate and bizarre cover letters to companies. Despite the profusion of profanity so loved by my generation, including this bookending gem: "'Live for today, you retarded little shit. The end is near,'" I found the story touching, if a little slight. The main character, Joey Comeau, yes, Joey Comeau, goes through many of the stages of grief I remember: self-destruction; the desire to experience everything; the desire to experience nothing; anger; mythologizing; flailing regret; etc..
His degeneration is somewhat comic, which is where the book trips a little, but the book also contains lines that mirror the kind of thoughts that both anchor us to the past and give us some path for the future. "I love the feeling of running down stairs. It's an activity the body was made for, something that feels perfect and correct." The letter to Absolut Vodka is probably my favorite. It ends like this:" I am applying for a job, because I don't think you understand what to means to be cool or strong or invincible. You of all people should know. That is what alcohol does. It makes you strong. You can fight anyone. You can seduce anyone. You can drive faster than death." I don't think this is by accident, so I wish Comeau had whittled away at some of the bombast and deepened his main character a little.
ECW Press's treatment of the book is lovely. The paper is thick and the cover art by Comeau is striking. And the letter on the cover is dated with my brother's birthday.
Bonus: A shout out to a web comic-er Ryan North and his penis are included in a letter to Yahoo.