The Printer Whisperer
Litzine, Marie Blanchet, 40 pgs, blanchetmarie.com, $10
Writer, illustrator and designer Marie Blanchet collects 31 spooky, surreal stories set in haunted, uncanny, but somehow still commonplace offices. And in an impressive flourish of constrained technique, she tells each story in exactly 100 words. There are printers possessed by spirits, whole offices floating through clouds, witches’ unions, office beasts that must not be awoken. The fairy market next door is disrupting business by bartering with office staff, soliciting their imaginations and senses of time in exchange for luxurious fairy goods. Elsewhere, management’s team building exercises are increasingly looking like preparation for some actual sword-and-shield clash.
Each story is confined to a single page, framed by briskly sketched illustrations that help bring it to life. They are just snippets of bizarre larger worlds, where the weird and unearthly are taken for granted as everyday realities. In tale after tale, the reader is dropped into a fragment of some strange-is-normal day at the office, catching a scrap of a narrator’s commiseration with co-workers. The narrators aren’t put off by fairies, beasts, witches and ghosts, except insofar as they make the workday more complicated. The gremlins are in the printer again, just one reason among many that it isn’t working. Marie’s embrace of the fantastic as normal makes for fun and compelling tension.
In the introduction she nods to the parallels between the COVID experience and her exploration here of the intersection between the surreal, the terrifying and the mundane. And despite the feat of confining the stories to just 100 words apiece, it’s hard not to want them to spool on into larger tales. Marie leaves us wanting more.