Secret Life by Theo Ellsworth, an adaptation of a story by Jeff VanderMeer / ISBN 9781770464032 / 184-page hardcover (6.25 × 9 inches) from Drawn & Quarterly
An uncanny and eye-opening journey into a mysterious building, adapted from a short story by Jeff VanderMeer
To the west: trees. To the east: a mall. North: fast food. South: darkness. And at the centre is The Building, an office building wherein several factions vie for dominance. Inside, the walls are infiltrated with vines, a mischief of mice learn to speak English, and something eerie happens once a month on the fifth floor. In Secret Life, Theo Ellsworth uses a deep-layered style to interpret Nebula award-winning author Jeff VanderMeer’s short story. What emerges is a mind-bending narrative that defamiliarizes the mundanity of office work and makes the arcane rituals of The Building home.
When his manager borrows his pen for a presentation, a man is driven to unspeakable acts as he questions the role the pen has played in his workplace success. The despised denizens of the second floor develop their own tongue, incomprehensible to everyone else in The Building. A woman plants a seed of insurgency that quickly permeates every corner of the building with its sweet, nostalgic perfume.
With deft insight, Secret Life observes the sinister individualism of bureaucratic settings in contrast with an unconcerned natural world. As the narrative progresses you may begin to suspect that the world Ellsworth has brought to life with hypnotic visuals is not so secret after all; in fact, it’s uncannily similar to our own.