Conventions of Absence:The Style of
We have no language of negation; ours is always a dialectical language of negation and affirmation.
— MAIRE KURRIK, Literature and Negation
“The universe goes back a long way, I guess. Ten billion years?
Twenty billion? Is there a difference? . . . and most of it is
emptiness I guess, whatever `emptiness' is.”
— HARRY, IN JOYCE CAROL OATES , “Why Don't You
Come Live With Me It's Time”
I have already noted that in Joyce Carol Oates's story “Why Don'tYou Come Live With Me It's Time” a woman finds her dead grandmother staring at her one morning, a kind of ghostly mirror image of herself. She then remembers (nightmare, fantasy, actual event?) a night journey as a young girl on a steel beam across a “foam-flicked, terrible” river thirty feet below (the bridge has been closed for repairs) to visit her grandmother, who lives on the other side. She finally finds her in a house curiously lighted for that hour of the night. Grandmother has apparently cremated her dead husband (“which means burnt to mere ash: which means annihilation” [Morrow & McGrath, New Gothic