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.

Home Sweet Home

Marshall McLuhan (May, 1969, age 57).  A Coach House of my own!

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad to be back in Toronto.  Of course, after my nightmare year in New York in academic 1967/68 what with the brain surgery and ‘the recovery’ it’s hardly a surprise that I’m reveling in the quiet and still delights of dear old Hog Town.  While I was away Toronto University gave me a new office and my own building to house it and my Center for Culture and Technology in, the Coach House.  It’s tucked in back of the Pontifical Center of Medieval studies, and close to all my favourite haunts: my old office at 96 St. Joseph, the coffee shop in the basement of the ROM and the bar on top of the Sutton Place Hotel.  Yesterday was the official opening.   No expense was spared for the party.  My secretary Margaret Stewart told me the final damage was $382.58.  The Toronto Star reported the event today with the head line, ‘Guru’ McLuhan boy at heart.  And so I am.  Which reminds me I promised to meet Tom Easterbrook at the Sutton Place bar at 5 pm for whiskey and cigars – don’t tell Corinne, my Doctors say no scotch, no cigars, but I’m tired of Doctors orders.  I’m back, and at long last I’ve got something to celebrate, and at the present moment I feel like celebrating.  Got to run, Tom’s awaiting.

Me (December 2009, age 57).  At least it made him happy

McLuhan loved The Coach House at 39A Queen’s Park Crescent.  It was his place.  And he filled it with the things he loved, his books, piled everywhere, his rowing oar from Cambridge, his files.  And it contained things he loved: a wonderfully-1960s floor-to-ceiling mural by McLuhan’s friend, who worked as a designer at Eaton’s, René Cera, The Pied Piper, and of course the Monday night Seminars, which were the high point in his week in the 1970s.  Here he brought and spoke with the wise and wonderful – Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Buckminster Fuller, Eric Havelock, and Peter Drucker to name a few.  The question is couldn’t the University of Toronto given him something better than the Coach House?  Even in the Spring of 1969 the Coach House, which was built in 1828, was small, rundown, “seedy,” and, well, as Bette Davis would have said, “a dump.”  (More on this tomorrow.)

Do you have a place of your own to work?  Is such a place necessary to be creative and productive?  What is the minimum necessary?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Virginia Wolfe, A Room of One’s Own, 1929.

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Michael Hinton Friday, December 11th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Education, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Home Sweet Home

  • michael edmunds says:

    “couldn’t the University of Toronto given him something better than the Coach House?” Basically, only Bissel, the UT President,was supportive of McLuhan. Remember the English faculty — Pratt especially and Frye etc thought he was a flake. So Bissel stood against that group. A good example of this is Don Theall’s PhD defense. McLuhan and Theall had a falling out over Theall’s thesis. Mainly, complete (Eliot,Yeats,Pound,Joyce) McLuhan asked him to throw in Lewis. Theall objected on a few grounds and McLuhan reluctantly allowed it to stand. At the defense thought McLuhan was quite “cool” to the whole thing. The rest of the committee (the Pratts etc) felt McLuhan’s coolness was a sign that Theall rejected “McLuahnisme” and if that was the case, the thesis must be good! As Theall said it was then a shoe in. (person discussion with Don)
    This of course opened the door for Sheila Watson to do the Lewis part under McLuhan. Both thesis together represent McLuhan’s curriculum on the High Moderns.

    An even more puzzling matter is the treatment of Innis once he shifted his gaze to communications instead of his Railway, Beaver economics. It ironically took McLuhan’s intro to the Bias of communicaton to revive Innis into the academy!

    So McLuhan accepted the Coach House as a great victory over the sentiments of the old boys gang, I’d say.

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