A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Douglas Coupland’s Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan (March 19, age 98). Another biography!

‘Did you have a look at it?’

‘A look at what, Corinne?’

‘Douglas Coupland’s new book of course.’

‘Why should I?’

‘It’s about you!’

‘Very well, let’s take a look at page 69.  Oh boy, it’s some sort of women’s magazine test. By God it’s a test for Autism.  The bloody fool thinks I’m autistic!’

‘No he doesn’t Marshall. Look at page 66.’

‘I am.  And it’s not helping.  The point is he’s trying to label me.  Stick me in a box.  Put me in a hole.  Well. I won’t have it.  Besides, the damn thing’s shot full of errors.  He’s got my birth date wrong on page 36, July 20th indeed.’

‘Calm yourself, Marshall.  You know what the doctor said before you died.  No excitement.’

‘July 20th.  Ought to be able to get my birth date right.’

‘Marshall, put that book away.’

‘I thought you wanted me to have a look at it.’

‘I did and now I want you to stop looking at it.’

Me (March 2010, age 57). But not just any biography

In turns brilliant, playful, infuriating, clever, self-promoting, and self-indulgent, Douglas Coupland’s new biography of McLuhan – in bookstores this month – will be required reading for anyone who wants to understand Douglas Coupland.   Whether anyone who wants to understand Marshall McLuhan needs to read him is less certain.  At this time, I am not sure myself.  I am sure, however, that anyone who wants to understand Marshall McLuhan will take pleasure reading this book.  Right or wrong, Coupland is a writer of great talent, and great talent is displayed.

There is great anagrammatical word play on McLuhan’s name.

There are excerpts from Coupland’s novel, Generation A – the sequel to Generation X – which he wrote at the same time as he was researching his book on McLuhan – which he says are there because the first excerpt reveals the ‘apocalyptic thinking that permeated much of Marshall’s later years,’ and the second because it was inspired by the stroke McLuhan suffered in 1979.

There are strong assertions about McLuhan.  He was Coupland says:

A Momma’s boy

A Performance artist

A Genius

Arrogant

Charming

Funny

Boring

Inflammatory

Clueless

Stoked

Godlike

Full of horseshit

I will return to this book.  And you should go and see the test he presents for autism that infuriated McLuhan and was created by Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues.

Do you pass the test?  (The Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ – ‘a measure of the extent of autistic traits in adults.’) I’ll post my score and Marshall’s tomorrow.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan, 2009

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Michael Hinton Friday, March 19th, 2010
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