Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Bucak. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bucak. Show all posts

21 June, 2014

Ayse Papatya Bucak, "Iconography"

Told in future tense by a first person narrator, "Iconography," tells of a anorexic young Turkish woman during her first year in an American private university. It starts out telling us that the "Starving Girl" will "decline and rise." So right away we know that it's not just a story of the decline and death of a girl but that she will rise, i.e. into an icon.

The young girl finds "the pain so exquisite that it feels true." Most people want to subscribe a simple reason for her refusal to eat, government protest, Gandhi, Thoreau, or Kafka, eating disorder, or misguided idealism and in this way tells the reader he/she is free to place upon "Starving Girl" his/her reason.

Before she is the "Starving Girl," she is just one in the crowd, "not even the girl." University officials are finally notified and then her parents in Turkey. The parents leave their hotel in the hands of an assistant and there is some scandal when a young girl removes her head scarf at the foot of the leader Atatürk's mausoleum. Although the "Starving Girl's" parents never hear of the scandal the incident connects both girls. The girl refuses to replace her head scarf "despite the quiet insistence of her parents and ends up leaving her family for good." This works as an example of the way in which another girl becomes an icon and so can our girl.

When asked by many people what can be done to make her eat, she merely responds, "Change everything." With this "The Starving Girl" becomes an icon that can stand in for whatever we place upon her, burden her with.

People imbue her non-eating with meaning and protests which have nothing to do with her thoughts or reason for deciding not to eat which eventually makes a headline of "Student Protests Everything." She becomes a "sacrificial martyr" and then a "liberal protestor."

Finally so many people have joined that "no one is eating." "It is a hunger strike so large that everything changes, and for at least a year, ours is a world in which everyone helps each other..." and she comes to believe that she is "the little bit of sickness that stops the disease..." The Turks "knew sometimes you had to be sick in order to live."

The "Starving Girl" has become the iconography of the state of the world as well as "the spotlight."

There are many speculations about what happens next to the "Starving Girl." The girl dies. "She was an inspiration." She's become iconographic. The reader is reminded, "Remember, it has not happened yet," as if, of course, this is the sort of thing that will happen because it does happen.

First published in The Iowa Review and then in the 2014 Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses.

faculty page about Bucak
an essay--A MUST READ