Would-be writers will find this both useful and inspiring, while general readers can simply enjoy Livesey’s keen insights...



From the noted creative writing teacher and novelist, a smart, unpretentious guide to “writing the life, shaping the novel.”

The eponymous hidden machinery is twofold: the nuts and bolts of craft, which give a novel form and function, and “the secret psychic life of the author,” which shapes its emotional undercurrents. Livesey (Fiction/Iowa Writers’ Workshop; Mercury, 2016, etc.) concentrates initially on technique, beginning with the lessons she learned from Irish novelist Brian Moore when she was an aspiring writer waitressing in Toronto: “the actual words…make all the difference” and “every sentence matter[s].” 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. A fascinating chapter on “How to Tell a True Story” categorizes literature on a continuum ranging from “fiction,” in which every element is carefully designed to create a coherent overall impact, and “antifiction,” which emulates the messy confusion of real life and seeks to make readers feel “that the events described really had occurred.” 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. “We are always seeking authority for our work,” she writes. “The question is what the source will be.” Admirers of the author’s fiction will enjoy glimpses of the autobiographical elements underpinning it: a mother who died young (Eva Moves the Furniture), a detested stepmother (the story “Learning by Heart”), a miserable four years in boarding school (The Flight of Gemma Hardy), and a difficult relationship with her father, as yet not resolved into art but the subject of the moving pages that close the book’s final chapter on “navigating the shoals of research.”

Would-be writers will find this both useful and inspiring, while general readers can simply enjoy Livesey’s keen insights and engaging prose.

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941040-68-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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