• 2017
  • Tin House Books
  • Paperback, Kindle
Buy online

The Hidden Machinery

"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 fictions 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.

Praise for The Hidden Machinery

"[A] smart, unpretentious guide to "writing the life, shaping the novel." Employing a winningly confidential first-person voice, Livesey uses her own struggles and examples ranging from Jane Austen to Jane Smiley to elucidate such basics as creating character and writing dialogue as well as more intangible elements like developing a clear aesthetic. It's characteristic of Livesey's inclusive spirit that she does not privilege one over the other but explores each as a strategy that suits different kinds of materials and goals. Would-be writers will find this both useful and inspiring, while general readers can simply enjoy Livesey's keen insights and engaging prose." Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"There is ore in every rift of Livesey's apologia and guide... Her fascination with the hows and whys of masterpieces serves to enlarge the art and to involve us in its necessity, struggle and promise. Ideally, we return to our own writing and reading with a keener grasp of craft and passion." The Woven Tale Press

"If only I'd been able to read The Hidden Machinery before I began my first novel. It would have saved me so much trouble! Margot Livesey's essays are not only helpful and informative (about writing and great writers—Austen! Woolf! Flaubert!) but every witty, elegant sentence is a pure pleasure to read." Francine Prose, author of Reading Like a Writer

"I've learned a great deal over the years from the wise counsel and dazzling intelligence of my dear friend Margot Livesey. With these brilliant essays, she offers all her lucky readers a new way to understand fiction's inner workings. Her readings of old favorites and more recent delights brim with warmth and insight and her revelations make this an essential companion for all serious readers and writers." Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever

"There is no finer teacher of writing in America than Margot Livesey. The young writer who spends an hour with Livesey leaves with pockets filled with nuggets of her sly intuitions. To have an entire book of her wit, wisdom and constructive suggestions is to possess the mother lode." James Magnuson, Director of the Michener Center for Writers and author of Famous Writers I Have Known