A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.Â Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday,Â I present one of McLuhanâ€™s observations and talk about its relevance today.Â 300 ideas. 300 days.Â 300 posts.
Marshall McLuhan (April 16, 2010, age 99). This is getting a bit too personal!
â€śCorinne, you will not believe what that Hinton bloke is going on about in his From Marshall and me blog.Â Says the brain tumor operation cost me my genius!Â How can he say such a thing?Â Look at all that I did despite that operation.â€ť
â€śCalm yourself Marshall.Â Who are they going to believe?Â You or him?Â Did he win the Governor Generalâ€™s award for non-fiction?Â Did he win an Order of Canada?
Me (April 2010, age 57).Â What do Marshall McLuhanâ€™s biographers say?
Marshall McLuhanâ€™s biographers have said that the operation was a nightmare, and McLuhan was forever changed by it, but he lived to go on to write books and articles and so the operation had a happy ending.
Here, for example is what Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhanâ€™s first major biographer, has to say about the effects of the operation on McLuhan: â€śThe effects of the operation would linger for the rest of McLuhanâ€™s life.Â In the months immediately following, it was dramatically obvious to his associates that McLuhan had changed.â€ť The changes being: hypersensitivity to sound, loss of energy (which had been â€śhis most obvious professional assetâ€™), loss of a â€śphotographic memory,â€ť permanent loss of specific memories of reading over the previous â€śseveral years of reading,â€ť the loss of â€śemotional and intellectual resilience,â€ť and a strange new degree of fragility, irrationality, inflexibility, and quarrelsomeness â€“ resulting in his uncharacteristic abusiveness â€śto students and colleagues.â€ť
And Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhanâ€™s most recent biographer, says of the operation – which he describes as â€śa gross insult to the brainâ€ť: “he was back again, but he was back in reduced form.Â He had, in fact, lost swaths of memory; curiously, he had trouble remembering books heâ€™d read many times over. â€¦ [H]e lost some of his ability to be civil to colleagues and students. In addition, his hypersensitivity to noises, always high, became extreme.â€ťÂ And â€śMarshallâ€™s highly intrusive brain surgery at the age of fifty-six signaled the beginning of an end â€“ the end of the high-water mark of Marshallâ€™s fame, his notoriety, his earning potential, his vitality, and his ability to soak up information and to locate patterns.â€ť
Again, if true, what implications are there for our reading and understanding of Marshall McLuhan? My final thoughts on this topic tomorrow.
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Reading for this post
Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan (2009)], pp. 182-83, p. 185
Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger (1989), pp. 213-14