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Instruction Manual for Swallowing
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Instruction Manual for Swallowing

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  210 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Revealing a bestiary of hybrids from the techno-crazed future and the mythological past, this surreal short story collection takes imaginative leaps through a science fiction influenced landscape. Reflecting a cinematic feel, young couples reach defining stages in their relationships as zombies fall in love, a stalker tracks a young woman through time only to discover he’s ...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published November 23rd 2007 by Comma Press (first published June 1st 2007)
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Craig Wallwork
Jul 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found this book because I’ve been interested in submitting something to the publishers, Comma Press, for some time. And I also thought it was one of the coolest titles of a book I’ve seen for a while. The Instructional Manual For Swallowing by Adam Marek is not your average book. It doesn’t quite fit anywhere, which is why you need to read it.

As I’m always searching for strange and wonderful short stories that match, and surpass, the likes of Etgar keret, I was really excited at the prospect
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
As the title implies, Marek's stories are about the ways in which, particularly through language, aspects of the everyday are made unfamiliar to us. In these uncanny tales there is something almost Lacanian about the way words lead not to understanding but instead reveal the world as ultimately unknowable.

They are also suggestively 'post-secular'. With their mini-epiphanies and their odd moments of lyricism they hint at something like intelligent design. However, as one critic has noted, the sto
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
I picked up this book to try a new genre. I thought it was a collection of science fiction/fantasy short stories. While there’s an element of oddity in all of the stories, not all of them seemed obviously to me to be science fiction/fantasy. I think I’m just a novice in this genre. Marek has a pretty good and wacky imagination. Some of the stories were quite intelligent. Three stars because I’m comparing it with the only other collection of fantasy/science fiction short stories that I’ve read: I ...more
Stuart Douglas
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Instruction Manual for Swallowing is Adam Marek's first collection according to his website, but I can only assume that he had written pretty widely before creating this compilation of his work. There's little flab on show here, and absolutely no sign that Comma simply collected up every short story he'd ever written, threw a front cover on it and released the new book into the world.

Instead, what we have is a series of highlights, a set of stories where each successive tale trumps the one befor
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't received my copy yet, just received notice I had won. 03/15/12
Received my copy last night and hope to start soon. I have 15 in front plus my current read. 3/29/12
Started yesterday, 5/28/12
Finished 5/31/12

This book is a collection of short stories that are bizarre. There really is not other word for it. The people that are in the stories find themselves in strange situations, where all sorts of odd things happen to them. One woman pregnant with 37 babies? A man obsessed with the weight
Betty Dickie
These stories were beautifully written and very strange. There was one about a woman pregnant with 37babies and with the help of a wacky doctor brings them to term. One dealt with mechanical wasps created by exterminators, that only exterminators, or a gifted computer geek, can destroy. The strangest was the restaurant that served zombies--you don't want to know where they get their meat. Mind messing but fantastic writing.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Strange but interesting stories about masculinity and the male experience. Some of the stories felt a little unfinished to me, but the ones that land (Boiling the Toad, Cuckoo, Belly Full of Rain) are brutal and memorable.
Really, 3.5 stars

A mixed collection, containing both 2 star and 5 star stories, although most stick right around the 3 star mark. The stories veer between scifi and fantasy, although both have some bizarro element in them.

Where Marek excels is when he takes a little talked-about male experience and utilizes the unique qualities of genre fiction to explore it. The only 5 star story in the collection, “Boiling the Toad” explores a male victim of domestic violence. It does this in a powerful way wi
Stacie Cregg
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through Goodreads's First Reads program.

In this book are fourteen (sixteen, if you count the bonus stories in the back) of the most inventive, disturbing, and entertaining short stories I've ever read. Many of the stories are simply bizarre: a man, shopping for a new pet, finds himself in a shop where the owner sorts the animals by volume. A group of men hunt the flesh of humans to feed to the patrons of their zombie restaurant. A little boy finds a splinter in his toe; upon
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I can see why the publishers at ECW thought to give me this collection when I told them that I'm a huge fan of Etgar Keret; Adam Marek cites Keret as one of his inspirations in the BackLit interview included in this edition. Marek's stories gravitate much more to the grotesque than Keret's, however they maintain a similar balance of the mundane and the fantastic. Instruction Manual for Swallowing lacks some of the emotional resonance of Keret's works, however it is an enjoyable and disturbing fo ...more
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic, fantastical short stories.
Steven Ackerley
Brilliant. The stories are weird, fantastic and touchingly human.
Mark J  Easton
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A mixture of quirky tales that are as fun as they are disturbing, each giving the reader the thrill of never quite knowing what the next page will bring. A gem for fans of short stories, a pin to burst boredom, and a surefire way of reading yourself into a smile.
A bunch of spooky tales combined ordinary life with fantastical element, most of which begin promisingly but ends weakly. I do find "Belly Full of Rain", "Cuckoo" and "Meaty's Boys" both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strange and captivating short stories. The best I've read lately and I could not put the book down.
Stefan Grieve
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, short-story
A dark and hilariously twisted collection of stories that constantly surprised, entertained touched and sometimes revolted me.
Involving all sorts of genres but all surreal or dark and about relationships in a way, either metaphoricaly or at their darker, usually hidden edge. It made me laugh out loud or left me at the end of my seat.
My personal favourite is 'The centipedes wife' it did not go the way I expected, and it takes a great writer to make me sympathise for a giant, monstrous yet oddly
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are very modern stories. By that I mean Marek favours slices of life and vignettes to your more traditional beginning, middle and ending approach but I don't see this as a bad thing—I'm very fond of this style of writing—but I can see others feeling short-changed. For example, in the first story a man goes into a pet shop to discover that the pets there are sold by their volume. The shopkeeper is an amiable sort and when the customer asks what his biggest pet is he's taken to see the forty ...more
May 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Though the stories in Instruction Manual for Swallowing range widely in the stories being told, there is a common feeling they share. In each story, the effort to be wildly imaginative seems forced and awkward. Marek's voice as a story teller is indifferent at best. He seems to care more about what he can force his characters to do to serve his desire to be a fantastical writer than develop them to respond with authentic emotions to the crazy surreal situations in which they find themselves. It ...more
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Promising starts that I actually like a lot (+ great titles) and disappointing endings. Flat unattractive characters who don't let you neither love them nor hate them + excessive use of gimmicks and an absolutely unexplainable need to explain them (the worst case: that of "Testicular cancer vs. the Behemot" in which there's entire paragraph explaining the meaning of the trick that the author is doing in that very moment, as if the story was told to 10-years old kids who wouldn't see the obvious. ...more
Joel U
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When our pens bring on tomorrow
And deliver the alchemic promises of paradise
And the ruin of all human structure-
Rot the purists.

Rot the hand that hands you only fantasy,
Where freedom binds us to a romantic moon,
And upright values always have a willing partner.

Rot the doomsayers who blot out your sun,
Where reckless ambition shined on us,
With a cloud of human folly and ruin .

Talent in tales of tomorrow depends on more
Than just the sun or the moon,
It needs an Ass to bray at perfection,
And a Fool t
Adam Marek is a master of the surreal and the absurd. The stories in this collection, his first, are imaginatively plotted and compelling to say the least. If one has to choose favourites these would be The Forty Litre Monkey, Testicular Cancer vs the Behemoth and the eponymous -- Instruction Manual for Swallowing. He has this uncanny talent of slipping unnoticed from the real to the netherworld of dreams, fears and black despair. His politics is hot glowing, his vision about the future eerily a ...more
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So impressed with this collection. We're thrown into a different world with each story but within a couple of sentences you're completely enthralled. You're then brutally lifted from that world and thrown into another, and another, and another. Sometimes the stories are predominantly gruesome and visceral, others are poignant and emotional, others are hilarious, and all contain elements of all of these things. Highly recommended.
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adam Marek has a strange mind. It's great though, because this collection of short stories are bizarre and quite brilliantly warped. From robot wasps, to sculptures in the Tate Modern coming to life, measuring animals by volume, massive centipedes and cats who like ipods - weirdness is ramped up to 11.

Thoroughly recommended if you're a fan of Stephen King's short story collections.
Danielle Lovesey
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Adam Marek has a way of just creeping you out! some of the short stories in this book are beautiful, funny, interesting reads, and then others are downright creepy, and the most interesting thing about it the stories people find to be good and the ones they find to be bad differ from person to person well worth the read if you're into strange and abstract stories with a dark theme!
Adam Hampton
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strange, surreal and honest. I loved these stories. Marek has artifice in the palm of his hand, and moulds it into a journey through both the conscious and subconscious mind. I'm a slightly different person for reading this collection. And better for it.
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I thought this was a nice collection of short stories... in some parts I thought the writing could have been a little bit stronger but still found it overall to be an enjoyable read.

Thank you for this first-reads copy also!
Vincenzo Ravina
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long, long time. I love this book. The stories are strange and beautiful and funny and disgusting. The writing is superb and it felt like the book was written just for me. Rarely do I find books that hit the spot so precisely.

Your mileage may vary.
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was okay. I only really loved one story: The Centipede's wife. I thought 'The 40-litre monkey' was good. Other than that, I wasn't that impressed.
Sonja Trbojevic
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strange stories, all excellent...some grotesque, some disturbing, some amusing.
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Adam Marek is an award-winning writer of short stories that combine the surreal and absurd with every-day life. He won the 2011 Arts Foundation Short Story Fellowship, and was shortlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. His stories have appeared on BBC Radio 4, and in many magazines and anthologies, including Prospect and The Sunday Times M ...more
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