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Instruction Manual for Swallowing [Mass Market Paperback]

Adam Marek
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.95
Price: 6.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

23 Nov 2007
Robotic insects, in-growing cutlery, flesh-serving waiters in a zombie cafe... Welcome to the surreal, misshapen universe of Adam Marek's first collection; a bestiary of hybrids from the techno-crazed future and mythical past; a users guide to the seemingly obvious (and the world of illogic implicit within it). Whether fantastical or everyday in setting, Marek's stories lead us down to the engine room just beneath modern consciousness, a place of both atavism and familiarity, where the body is fluid, the spirit mechanised, and beasts often tell us more about our humanity than anything we can teach ourselves.

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Instruction Manual for Swallowing + The Stone Thrower + Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Comma Press (23 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905583044
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905583041
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam Marek is the award winning author of two short story collections: Instruction Manual For Swallowing and The Stone Thrower - both published by Comma Press in the UK and ECW Press in North America.

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 in many magazines and anthologies, including Prospect and The Sunday Times Magazine, and The Best British Short Stories 2011 and 2013. He also teaches creative writing for the Arvon Foundation.

Visit Adam online at

'Tales as playful and emotionally resonant as they are disturbing...delightful.'
The Guardian

'Adam Marek is one of the best things to have happened to the short story this century. His stories might be strange, delicious or haunting - but they're always compelling. Any day now the word "Marekian" is going to enter the language. Get in on the act early. Read him now.'
Alison MacLeod

'...this bold young writer is refreshing the form.'
Financial Times

Product Description


'There's a transgressive thrill to Adam Marek's debut collection of short stories that's not simply a result of the potency of the subject matter... delightful.' --The Guardian

'Early McEwan meets David Cronenberg.... genuine, unsettling talent.' --The Independent

'Marek's fabulously meaty, funny writing makes the short story look really exciting again, pulling you, frame by frame, into a bright, strange future.' --Maggie Gee

About the Author

***WINNER of the 2011 Arts Foundation Fellowship in Short Story Writing*** **Short-Listed for the 2010 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award** *Long-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize* Adam Marek was born in 1974. His stories have appeared in Prospect magazine, New Writing 15 edited by Maggie Gee and Bernardine Evaristo, The Bridport Prize Anthology (2003 and 2005), Parenthesis, The New Uncanny, When It Changed edited by Geoff Ryman, and on-line at In 2007, his story 'Testicular Cancer vs the Behemoth' was performed by Ian Hart (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Dirt) at the WordTheatre event in London. His first full collection, Instruction Manual for Swallowing was published by Comma Press in 2007. He has since contributed short stories to Comma's anthologies The New Uncanny (2008) and When It Changed (2009) and has published a second short story collection, The Stone Thrower. He lives in Bedfordshire with his wife and sons.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short is beautiful 27 Nov 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm a big fan of JG Ballard. His short stories captivate my imagination; a recognisable world that suddenly twists, normal people go off-course and get caught up in major terrorist plots, crime, and strange internal or future worlds. So I was pleasantly surprised on picking up this book that Adam Marek takes the reader into a realm that strikes resonances both thematically and stylistically with Ballard and other authors such as Paul Auster and Douglas Coupland.

The stories are addictive and instantly readable, the first is about a man who goes to buy a new pet for his girlfriend and enters a closed and suffocating world of the pet shop owner who measures his animals in litres, and prizes his 40-litre monkey beyond anything else. Another that had me laughing out-loud and genuinely crying was the bizarre yet somehow poignant tale of Brendan and Doris, and their extreme multiple birth (37 babies to be precise). All of the characters are recognisable, their traits, their thoughts, their flaws. It is the extraordinary circumstances in which they find themselves that bring the stories to life.

As I travel to work by train, this book was ideal - the stories last just long enough for the journey, or are perfect pre-sleep wind down. But what really got me is that they stay with you. I keep thinking about the man that tried to find his sub-conscious, or how the loss of one of the babies made such a mark on Brendan. I've read another book since and these stories are still there, filtering through and making me think about how we make sense of our selves in what can be a really strange world.

I'd recommend this book, it should be celebrated for being a really good collection of short stories. It's not about them being easier or quicker to read because they're short, they work like this - it's how they should be. That said, if Marek does write a novel it'd go straight on my Wish List.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I love this book. When I was young I was a big Roald Dahl fan, and I still am. Marek's stories reminded me a great deal of Dahl - they are very funny, and they are very grotesque.

My favourite story is The Thorn. A young boy gets a splinter in his toe, which his gran and grandad help him to remove and I'll tell you something - it ain't a thorn. I writhed while reading this one, Marek's writing is sublime and I felt the young boy's pain.

My favourite thing about this collection of short stories is that, unlike Dahl, they read as fact. Marek makes every idea seem believable, without a hint that these ideas should be nonsense. Name me one person who hasn't lived in a giant centipede's lair, or gestated 37 babies.

I have to say, everytime I came to the end of a story and saw the final paragraph in sight, I was gutted. This book is brilliant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
'Instruction Manual For Swallowing', Adam Marek's first collection, appeared in 2007. It gathers fourteen stories, of which a handful have appeared in anthologies and magazines.

Marek is still a relatively young writer, but was already in his thirties when this book appeared, and had developed a consistent voice. Typically, the tone is straightforward, even flat: there are no verbal fireworks, and Marek's narrators are ordinary people with no special powers of understanding - though they encounter others who are less predictable.

Marek decants some of these people into situations in which ordinary life, with its sushi bars and iPods and art galleries, is transformed by an eruption of the bizarre. Some find themselves subject to cartoonish social torments. Others inhabit nightmarish parallel or future worlds, in which they labour against grotesque odds to perform a version of normality. Little is explained.

Adam Marek is writing about our world, with its familiar gadgets and cultural memes, but his stories range further: they are not limited in imagination to the hermetically-sealed world of the metropolitan middle-class. Nor is Marek frightened of being thought low-brow for treating themes more familiar from SF and fantasy than from literary fiction.

On the other hand, I found none of these stories particularly memorable. The best seem to aspire to something like Kafka's atmosphere of existential strangeness and dread, but lack that writer's compelling power. The lesser stories are variations on familiar themes in recent popular fiction and cinema.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius short stories from Mr. Marek 12 Feb 2011
By Tony
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I think it's a real shame that short stories don't get the attention that larger tomes get.

This collection is at the top of the tree when it comes to unique and interesting ideas. Mr. Marek writes with a great prose style and pulls you into these very different worlds story by story.

I bought this on the review basis that it was a bit like Roald Dahk and that seems true to me, the stories seem like Roald Dahl for the generation that grew up reading Dahl and are now adults.

I was smiling as the stories developed and took me on some very imaginative journeys. Great reading and as I think Iv'e underlined a very good collection indeed. Quirky and Contemporary.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful collection of shorts for lovers of the absurd
I'll keep this short and sweet as the 'McEwan meets Cronemberg' sums this up well. Marek is very good at exploring human truths through his unconventional stories. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Book muncher
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky and well written
I thoroughly enjoyed this book of short stories, they were quirky and beautifully written. I particularly enjoyed 'The 40 litre monkey' and 'Meaty's boys', it would be great to... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Hypolyta Cosmopolita
3.0 out of 5 stars Good service
As always, the book arrived promptly and in good condition. Story was okay, nothing outstanding. I was trying out a new author so didn't have great expectations.
Published on 11 May 2012 by Mrs. Jeanice E. Singh
4.0 out of 5 stars Instruction Manual for Swallowing by Adam Marek
Adam Marek's first wide scale appearance was in the Bridport Prize Anthology 2003 and again in 2005. Read more
Published on 17 Aug 2010 by K. M. Knight
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellant stuff.
The stories all have ordinary premises mixed with surreal psychological twists which are perculiar in their witting charm. Read more
Published on 6 Jun 2010 by A. Chow
5.0 out of 5 stars Beguilingly entertaining
Pets being sold by volume rather than weight, extreme multiple births, a giant talking centipede and flesh-eating zombies might seem unusual literary bedfellows but this collection... Read more
Published on 5 May 2008 by A. J. Logan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically Funny
It has been over 10 years since I read a book that enthralled me as much as this. It is compulsive reading with characters you know and love and others' traits you despise. Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2007 by Gina M. Inman
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