Thursday, January 23, 2020

Emma Copley Eisenberg

Emma Copley Eisenberg's debut book is The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia.

From her interview with Sarah Perry at The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: I picked up your book partly because we have mutual friends, and so it felt somehow safer than other true crime accounts. I had a chance to experience that voyeuristic excitement, while knowing that I could trust you to have preempted my objections. I also knew that it would be incredibly well-written, and for me, that would make it more “okay” than other true crime stories. But I kept asking myself: is this problematic, elitist? Is making something more “literary” necessarily a case of making it better or more ethical? Are high-quality true crime accounts like Serial and Making a Murderer allowing people to sidestep that “guilty pleasure” feeling that might come from an SVU marathon and avoid interrogating their interest in seeing (mostly women) get brutalized?

Emma Copley Eisenberg: There’s a difference between making something “literary”—nice sentences, a fancy font—and making something rigorous, morally serious, preempting reader questions about facts and ethics and narrative choices. My book is literary because I really care about writing and the way it feels in the mouth, but I think I care most about the book being rigorous. I have RIGOR written on a piece of paper that hung above my writing space for awhile. I have read and re-read and parsed and gone over the book with the fact checker and the lawyer and I stand behind everything that’s in it. It took me so long to write and I got to change my mind so many times, and the book reflects that twisty, turning process in which the book got smarter and more rigorous over time.

I know that rigor still doesn’t let me off the hook for taking up the brutalizing of women as the central subject. But I will say with all truthfulness that what grabbed hold of me wasn’t exactly the murders of two women—that was a fact, an element of what grabbed hold of me, but what really consumed me and ate me alive was 1) Liz, “the third Rainbow girl,” 2) the nine men and the ways their lives were impacted, especially Pee Wee Walton and Johnnie Washington Lewis, the two men who testified that a man they didn’t know very well at all had shot two women outsiders they had never seen before for a reason they could not ever name or articulate beyond some vague idea of sexual entitlement, and 3) what all this had to do with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue