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.
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.
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