As a long time reader, there are a wealth of books that have failed to live up their promises. Some of these books are extremely popular, but despite this I found them all to be a massive let down. Despite everything that was said about them, at the end of the day something was missing to hold these stories together, and they were all the worse for it. If you try and fail to write a regular novel, this is one thing that seems to be pretty forgivable. But when someone tries to do something experimental and it fails, it does so pretty miserably.
Today’s example is Overqualified, by Joey Comeau.
Overqualified is an epistolary novel – a fancy Greek word meaning composed of letters, wherein author come-protagonist Joey Comeau, is writing cover letters in order to look for a job. Every letter is a little an attempt to be more revealing into some of the more gruesome aspects of the back story of this character.
Before anyone accuses me of missing the point, I am fully aware that the structure of a story greatly affects it telling. That is, in fact, exactly the kind of books I really enjoy. We are meant to believe, if the conventions by how this works are going to apply, that the two very different things going on will meet in a logical and satisfying way somewhere along the books journey. Joey’s applying for job will illuminate his past tragedies, and that the past tragedies will give us some insight into why he can’t get a job. All of this, ironically or not, should have something to do with being Overqualified.
The book does little of this, and does non of it well.
There are conceits and there are gimmicks. And it is not like what the old judge said – I don’t simply recognize it when I see it, without being able to really define it. While I still might not be able to very easily articulate the difference, I am willing to suspend judgment and assume that what I am reading are conceits until the very last few pages, at which point it becomes obvious that it really was a gimmick all along. That is a pretty horribly depressing moment in a reading experience. That was this book: little more than a cheap gimmick. The promise was very real, and if this had been well executed something really good might have come of it; a story where we gradually came to know more and more of a character through what he reveals about himself in job applications. Instead it was mostly just faux low-life exhibitionism for its own sake.
This was probably one of the more disappointing things I have read in some time.