Percival Everett & Subjective Meaning

From a New Yorker profile of Percival Everett (who I had never heard of before reading the profile).

Everett is American literature’s philosopher king—and its sharpest satirist. The significant insignificance of language has long been a preoccupation of his fiction, which plumbs the failures of storytelling to capture (or enhance) the experience of life. In “Dr. No,” a gonzo spy thriller from 2022, a scholar who specializes in “nothing” learns his most important lesson from his one-legged dog: “What Trigo had taught me was that pure meaning did not exist, never did and never would.” Other protagonists, among them a Derrida-obsessed baby, a philandering painter, and a down-and-out gambler, take for granted that meaning-making is a dance of false promises and willful delusions. Everett himself compares it to a con: “Because we want language to mean something, it means everything.”

“Pure meaning did not exist and never would.” (!)

This matches the Lacanian idea that meaning —an effect of imaginary and symbolic elements coming together and being interpreted/made sense of— is always a subjective experience. Meaning is always one-by-one, a not-all kind of thing.

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