May 30, 2008
"Margot Livesey grew up in a boys’ private school in the Scottish Highlands where her father taught, and her mother, Eva, was the school nurse. After taking a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent most of her twenties [in Toronto] working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. Her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then Margot has published six novels: Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona and The House on Fortune Street (May 2008)."
Margot has taught at numerous universities, and received many awards and fellowships. She is currently a distinguished writer in residence at Emerson College and the John F. and Dorothy H. Magee writer in residence at Bowdoin College. She lives with her husband, a painter, in Cambridge, MA.
We met at the Philadelphia Book Festival, and talk here mostly about Shakespeare, and how themes found in Hamlet wend their way through much of what she has written: trust, betrayal, how much you can push other people around, entering stories from different angles, exits as entrances; the Alexandria Quartet, cranberry sauce, pieces of stories, cubism, faulty fractured vision, authorial versus character-faithful metaphors, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Tolstoy's ability to inhabit a wide range of characters, apparitions, the tradition of ghosts being real, our relationship with the dead, stories within stories, the sin of irrelevancy, Keats's wish to be taller, and Margot's ambition to make her sentences ('ethical units') better.