SECRET LIFE — by Theo Ellsworth and Jeff VanderMeerDrawn & Quarterly
Text & illustrations: Theo Ellsworth and Jeff VanderMeer
Editor: Drawn & Quarterly
Published in September 2021
Size: 16 x 23 cm
Pages: 184 pages
An uncanny and eye-opening journey into a mysterious buildingadapted from a short story by Jeff VanderMeer
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 via the arcane rituals of The Building, the massive structure at the center of this book that is home to hundreds of employees who work around the clock.
Several factions vie for dominance in the workplace. A woman plants a seed of insurgency that quickly permeates every corner of the building. A mischief of mice learns to speak English. Something eerie happens once a month on the fifth floor. Second floor personnel develop their own tongue, incomprehensible to all other occupants. Custodians, too, form a cult around the head of their department. Such peculiarities are proof positive that Ellsworth’s adaptation is a timely one, bringing VanderMeer’s perspective into a present where the boundaries around what constitutes an office have blurred.
Dubbed by The New Yorker as the King of Weird Fiction, VanderMeer meets a perfect visual counterpart in Ellsworth who breathes life into the vine that eventually forces its way center stage. Secret Life observes the sinister individualism of bureaucratic settings with deft insight, contrasting it with an unconcerned natural world. Ellsworth's hypnotic visuals uncover a life not-so-secret after all, one that is uncannily similar to our own.