It only takes a walk past a hospital to drive home the point that the stuff that can shake a life barely resonates beyond our little minds. And if something as big as our own death won’t even give a pedestrian pause, well, then, what chance do our even smaller neuroses and fears have? There’s nothing like the realization that no one else at the party cares if you’re nervous about being there to make you feel alone in the world.
The short stories in Adam Marek’s collection Instruction Manual for Swallowing draw in both the ridiculous and the fantastical — everything from mechanical wasps to a miniature Busta Rhymes that lives inside us, running our internal systems — but their concerns are much smaller. Most often, they are our little internal battles, the mundane but powerful concerns that wear on us day-to-day, rotated 90 degrees and blown up to epic proportions. It would be something like a nightmare if it weren’t written with such a droll, cockeyed sense of humour: Your niggling psychological fears manifest right in front of your face.