All posts tagged: Julia Pike

How Much History Can Hurt: An Interview with Emma Copley Eisenberg

JULIA PIKE interviews EMMA COPLEY EISENBERG

The Third Rainbow Girl is not an easy book to categorize; nor is it always an easy book to read, but it’s certainly worthy of the latter. The book tells the story of a crime committed in Pocahontas County West Virginia in 1980, which was known as the Rainbow Murders. Two women, Vicky Durian and Nancy Santomero, were found dead from gunshot wounds in a remote corner of the county. The girls, along with their friend, Elizabeth Johndrow, had hitchhiked toward Pocahontas County to attend the Rainbow Gathering, an annual, weeklong meeting that celebrates peace and harmony. Johndrow decided not to go at the last minute. Because of where the bodies were found, as well as narratives describing the men of the town as violent and unfriendly to outsiders, many suspected that the crimes had been committed by a local. Nine men from the county were embroiled in the case, and one, Jacob Beard, was eventually charged and imprisoned for the murder, despite the 1984 confession of serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin.

Years later, Emma Copley Eisenberg moved to Pocahontas County to work for AmeriCorps VISTA as a volunteer at a nonprofit designed to empower girls. She spent a year working with girls during the day and drinking and playing bluegrass with local men at night. “I felt ruined by my time in Pocahontas County—no place would ever be so good,” Eisenberg writes. But like every story told in the book, this one is not so simple. “I felt harmed,” Eisenberg writes, “and also that I had harmed others with my weakness and my silence and my actions, and I didn’t know how to make those two feelings stay together. Every time I grasped one of them, the other seemed to fade away.” It was at a writing group in Pocahontas County that Eisenberg first heard the story of the Rainbow Murders, and that her story and the story of the crimes first became intertwined. In The Third Rainbow Girl, Eisenberg unpacks the complex history of the region, and how this history affected the treatment of the crimes and the resulting communal trauma.

The Common’s former Wood Fellow Julia Pike spoke by phone with Eisenberg about memory, positionality, reading and writing about Appalachia, and how we love a place through writing.



TC
: I’d love to start by talking about your short story “Forty-Four Thousand Pounds,” which was published in The Common’s Issue 15. The story has multiple parts—in one, the protagonist, Kendra, is in her father’s truck as he drives across the country, in another, years later, Kendra tells her friend/ girlfriend Carla that she’s leaving their hometown, and in yet another, furthest in the future, Kendra bikes around Philadelphia. I’m interested in the way the story handles time and memory, and curious about why you chose to tell it in this particular way.

How Much History Can Hurt: An Interview with Emma Copley Eisenberg
Read more...

Honoring Amherst Writers

For Amherst College’s fourth annual LitFest, The Common put together a Literary Landmarks tour of Amherst College, highlighting locations on campus with special connections to literary figures affiliated with the college, from Robert Frost to Lauren Groff. Building on that effort, we’ve compiled these highlights from The Common that were written either by or about Amherst professors, alums, and even current students.


The Poet in Rome: Richard Wilbur in Postwar Italy by Robert Bagg

Richard Wilbur circa 1944, standing near the 6 X 6 truck that transported gear for the 36th Texans Division during World War II.

Richard Wilbur graduated from Amherst College in 1942, and returned to Amherst to teach towards the end of his life, from 2008 to 2014.

“Richard Wilbur first visited Rome with the American Fifth Army that liberated the city, just behind the fleeing Germans, on 5 June 1944. By 10:00 p.m., his division, the 36th Texans, in trucks, in jeeps, and on mobile artillery, followed the tanks of the First Armored Division into the southern outskirts of Rome, where it paused, expecting to camp and rest within Cinecittà—then, as now, the sprawling center of Italy’s movie industry. Ever the explorer, Wilbur wandered into an abandoned viewing room and found, already loaded into an editing machine, a costume drama set in the Roman Empire. He turned the hand crank and watched a Fascist version of ancient history until his disgust overcame his curiosity.”

Honoring Amherst Writers
Read more...

Dread

By JULIA PIKE 

I lived on Dread—
To Those who know

                        Emily Dickinson

In Emily Dickinson’s bedroom, a white house dress hangs on a headless mannequin in front of the tiny writing table where she penned 1,789 poems.

Dread
Read more...

LitFest Friday Reads: February 2019

It’s that time again—The Common and Amherst College will be hosting the fourth annual LitFest at the end of the month. For three days, February 28th to March 2nd, award-winning authors, poets, and critics will descend on Amherst to read, discuss, teach, and celebrate great writing. This year the lineup includes two National Book Award finalists, two Pulitzer Prize winners, and a New York Times bestseller. View the full list of participating writers and a calendar of events here.

LitFest Friday Reads: February 2019
Read more...

Our Quest for Safety: an interview with Jill Eisenstadt

JULIA PIKE interviews JILL EISENSTADT

Jill Eisenstadt at the beach

Jill Eisenstadt by Beowulf Sheehan

Jill Eisenstadt’s latest book, Swell, was released to acclaim in June—Rolling Stone called it “the literary comeback of the year,”—thirty years after her debut novel with the same setting, From Rockaway.

In Swell, Eisenstadt tells the story of the Glassmans, a family of four who relocate from Tribeca to Rockaway, New York, in the aftermath of 9/11. The house they move into, like the Glassmans themselves, comes with a fraught history; their confrontation with this past reaches a crescendo that will make readers rethink what it means to love thy neighbor.

In this month’s interview, editorial assistant Julia Pike and Eisenstadt discuss marginalized communities, emotional truth, and the author’s return to Rockaway.

Our Quest for Safety: an interview with Jill Eisenstadt
Read more...

August 2017 Friday Reads

Curated by SARAH WHELAN 

This month, in response to a world that appears to be split across slippery fault lines, our interns are recommending books that explore cultural unity and interconnectedness. With attention to language, power, racism, and sex, these books ask the reader to reconsider her place in time as an intimate moment in a wider web of humanity.

Recommendations: Dance Dance Revolution by Cathy Park Hong, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler.

August 2017 Friday Reads
Read more...

Explore New York City with The Common

Here at The Common, we’re all about place, so we’ve been experimenting with more ways for readers to experience the locations of our pieces. Using this map, you can explore all the dispatches we’ve published set in New York City. Get to know Eli the Seltzer Man, the nighthawks on the Upper West Side, and more! 

Explore New York City with The Common
Read more...

Rivendell

By JULIA PIKE 

HouseGarrett County, Maryland 

Kinder, es endet noch schlecht!” my grandmother cautions my cousins, who are wrestling near the fireplace. “Kids, this is going to end badly!” She laughs as she says it, though. Everyone is scattered around the living room, the nucleus of the big house. Cushioned benches run the length of two walls, and there’s a big fireplace elevated in a square stone fixture in the center of the room. A giant cylindrical black flue descends from the ceiling to catch the smoke and carry it outside.

Rivendell
Read more...