‘The 40-Litre Monkey’ by Adam Marek

‘I once met a man with a 40-litre monkey.’

Those nine words, perhaps the best opening sentence of any collection, were life-changing for me. I had been writing, badly, and then I picked up Marek’s Instruction Manual and read the first story in one gulp in the bookshop and thought: “Stories can be like that?” Smart, funny, spawned from Marek’s characteristically wicked imagination and his preoccupation with weird science, the story takes us to a pet shop with a greasy, over-fed, award-winning secret in the cellar. We are taken downstairs to meet Cooper the baboon (the only character with a name) and forced to bear witness to his sinister weighing, colluding with the atmosphere of simmering abuse and controlled threat that Marek conveys so well. I like stories that irrevocably change an otherwise normal life experience and this one certainly changed pet shops (and Vaseline) for me forever.

 in Instruction Manual for Swallowing (Comma Press, 2007)