“Notions of the Sacred”
by Aysegul Savas
from the January 2 & 9, 2023 issue of The New Yorker
I still really want to get to know Savas’s work better. What I’ve read has been excellent, but I have not read any of her books. Can I rectify that in 2023? I think it should be a goal of mine to finally read both Walking on the Ceiling and White on White. For now we get a new story, and I like how it starts by making me wonder just what we are talking about.
I once heard a woman say that immediately upon finding out, she’d felt the dawning of a strange inner power. It seemed as though she could undertake any task, could live through any hardship. This was a strength not of muscles, the woman said, but of light. In this new form of herself, she felt more alive than she ever had before.
We learn in the very next paragraph what is going on, but it’s still quite mysterious, especially for a man, like me, who won’t experience this kind of inner power.
Please leave your thoughts below!
I hope you’re all having a lovely week as we close out 2022. I look forward to seeing you in 2023!
I was disappointed in this. It’s really well written and brilliantly descriptive of the writers inner self. But is it of the sort we’ve been reading?
Wonder how are others will react
I was at first not that impressed and even thought it was also kind of predictable that something bad was going to happen as the narrator first planted the idea that she and her friend, Zoey, were being “smug” (which she realizes briefly and then decides not to think about further) and then–having earlier compared herself to the Virgin Mary–launches into a paragraph that almost seems a parody of quasi-metaphysical pop psychology literature about pregnancy as she and her friend celebrate their sense that each is “…at the center of meaning with….unique wisdom” and “…that everything happened for a reason,” (this last phrase being a particularly overused pop psych cliche) and then I said “the shoe is going to drop.’ Then the next paragraph starts: “When it happened–when the bleeding started…”
But…it almost seems like this is the point–that as wonderful as pregnancy might be and as true as some of these cliches either are or might seem to be, that it can lead some to a sort of fair-weather bond like she and Zoey had, which seems to dissolve after she tells Zoey of her imminent miscarriage, and there’s something sad about the last paragraph where she writes “I was sure I would receive a message from Zoey very soon, even that day…”
So…what now is to happen to one who is now part of a different group (which through all the manifestations of “grief groups” etc. is also part of the pop psych industry) of those who miscarry and may never share in the discourse mystifying the wonders of pregnancy. Clearly, pregnancy has existed from the dawn of time and many many cultures have ritualized it via ceremonies etc., but this seems to present a particularly modern, bourgeois notion of what is ultimately a physical reality (and necessity) often imbued with signifieds based on the culture of the moment.
This story ends too soon. The more interesting story is how she and Zoe navigate the minefield of her loss.
The final paragraph or two cast the story in a new light of how friendships are based in contemporary culture where it is difficult reciprocate with someone you don’t feel is necessary in your life. I agree with the comment above me about the story ending too soon, I personally resonated with the story at the very end where the author laments on how transactional base experiences in life (friendships, pregnancy, death) have become; how Zoe avoiding her out of the repulsion while she was attempting to celebrate her own pregnancy may have been understandable – but awkwardness putting her off consoling her friend, to have her friend dispassionately compartmentalise her reaction to the news (save some heart emojis) for the sake of scheduling must have been incredibly disappointing.
And on top of everything, to essentially know how she’ll go about consoling you in a mild mannered way, it’s all difficult to take in.