The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing

The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing

by Margot Livesey


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A masterclass for those who love reading literature and for those who aspire to write it.

“Read everything that is good for the good of your soul. Then learn to read as a writer, to search out that hidden machinery, which it is the business of art to conceal and the business of the apprentice to comprehend.”

In The Hidden Machinery, critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling author Margot Livesey offers a masterclass for those who love reading literature and for those who aspire to write it. Through close readings, arguments about craft, and personal essay, Livesey delves into the inner workings of fiction and considers how our stories and novels benefit from paying close attention to both great works of literature and to our own individual experiences. Her essays range in subject matter from navigating the shoals of research to creating characters that walk off the page, from how Flaubert came to write his first novel to how Jane Austen subverted romance in her last one. As much at home on your nightstand as it is in the classroom, The Hidden Machinery will become a book readers and writers return to over and over again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941040683
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication date: 07/04/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 665,085
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

MARGOT LIVESEYis theNew York Timesbestselling author of the novelsMercury, The Flight of Gemma Hardy,The House on Fortune Street,Banishing Verona,Eva Moves the Furniture,The Missing World,Criminals, andHomework. Her work has appeared in theNew Yorker,Vogue, and theAtlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the
Guggenheim Foundation. Born in
Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

July 24, 1953

Place of Birth:

Perth, Scotland


B.A. in English and philosophy from the University of York, England

Table of Contents

The Hidden Machinery: Writing the Life, Shaping the Novel 1

Mrs. Turpin Reads the Stars: Creating Characters Who Walk off the Page 35

Nothing but Himself: Embracing Jane Austen's Second Chances 67

Hush, Shut Up, Please Be Quiet: Letting Our Characters Tell and Show 93

Even One Day: Considering Aesthetics with Virginia Woolf 123

Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be: Paying Homage 151

Gustave and Emma: Finding the First Novel 185

How to Tell a True Story: Mapping Our Narratives onto the World 219

Shakespeare for Writers: Learning from the Master 249

He Liked Custard: Navigating the Shoals of Research 279

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