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.

Brain surgery

In a day everything can change. (Continued)

Marshall McLuhan (November 26, 1967, age 56) …………………

Me (November, 2010, age 58)  We will be back tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Marshall cannot be with us today.  (If you have not read yesterday’s post I suggest you turn to it now.)  Here is what the New York Times reported about him on November 27, 1967:

McLuhan in Good Condition

After Removal of a Tumor

Marshall McLuhan, the communications theorist, was reported in a satisfactory condition yesterday at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center following surgery for the removal of a benign growth near his brain.

Dr. McLuhan, the Albert Schweitzer Professor of the Humanities at Fordham University, will spend the next three weeks at the hospital recuperating, the medical center said.  Dr. McLuhan, currently on leave from his post as a professor at the University of Toronto, is expected to return to Fordham in January.

The growth, a slow-growing encapsulated tumor, was in the cranial area, according to the hospital.

Cordially, Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 211-213.

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Michael Hinton Friday, November 26th, 2010
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In a day everything can change.

Marshall McLuhan (10 am, November 25, 1967, age 56).  Dear Diary:

Not long now.  Corinne says the operation’s set for just before noon.  The wait is killing me. I’d give anything to put it off for another week, but then I’d have to suffer through another week of being poked and prodded by the good doctors at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.   They say I’ve got a tumor the size of my fist lodged under my brain.  And the damn thing’s got to come out.  If it doesn’t over the next few months I’ll die, horribly, blind and insane.  When they started to tell me what they were going to do, where the knife would go, I started screaming.  I couldn’t listen.  Just to hear the details is appalling.  Quite frankly, I’m terrified.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  A happy ending?  Dear God,  I’d like to think so:

But, as I’ve said before,  I believe something special was taken away from McLuhan that day in New York City:  His genius.  The good news is he survived the long operation, which his doctors declared a success, and lived another 13 years.  The bad news is that it is doubtful that he was ever again the man he once was.  His memory muddied, his temper irritable, his energy sapped, his mind inflexible, his senses painfully acute, never again would he write a book alone, or come up with a new idea that was not simply a recycling of an idea developed in the 1950s and early 1960s translated into new words.  Always eccentric he became a darker parody of himself.  This is a harsher view than typically prevails in the literature on McLuhan.  It is harsher largely because of what I discovered quite by chance while looking into his surgery.  A world-class neurosurgeon I interviewed about McLuhan’s operation told me that there is no question that his genius would have suffered.  Forgive me for saying this, he told me, or words to this effect, if your business is swinging a hammer, you could return to work after this kind of operation.  But for a man like McLuhan whose business was the flash of his mind he could never go back and do what he had once done.

This may be hard to watch, but you may want to see what McLuhan had to go through and what new approaches are now being pioneered:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jpH2aDFpRM&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 211-213.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, November 25th, 2010
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What Marshall McLuhan was up to? [cont’d]

Marshall McLuhan (December 14, 1977, age 66).  Really, I was stunned!

I still can’t get over Peter Gzowski’s outrageous suggestion on television yesterday that I failed grade six!  I can’t imagine where he got the idea.   As told him – “I never failed any grade ever.”

Me (June 2010, age 57). Could McLuhan have actually forgotten that he failed grade six?

One might think it odd for a man to forget failing grade six.  Marshall McLuhan, however, forgot a great many things after the brain surgery he underwent in 1967.  For example, he forgot books he had read, his children’s birthdays, and where his friends lived.  Granted, his biographers do not comment on McLuhan’s denial that he failed grade six on the Gzowski show, which is when you think about it extremely odd.  Perhaps they didn’t because it seemed like a small, unimportant thing.  On the other hand it may also be a small, but striking example of how McLuhan was changed by the surgery and perhaps also his strokes.

Clearly, McLuhan was not the man he once was after his surgery.  As McLuhan biographer Philip Marchand says: “his friend John Wain described him as ‘nervous, fragile, tense’ [in] the year after his operation.  To some extent, he remained that way for the rest of his life.”  And a neurologist Marcel Kinsbourne, who knew McLuhan in the 1970s, recalled “he was querulous and irritable in his later years …   He didn’t come across as being particularly mentally alert or flexible.”  The question is how fundamentally he was changed.  As readers of this blog know, I believe the changes were pronounced.  So much so as I have argued in earlier posts.  One can say the surgery cost McLuhan his genius.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Philip Marchand, Marshall Mcluhan: the Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 214.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 24th, 2010
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So what?

Marshall McLuhan (April 16, 2010, age 99). This is too much!

“Corinne, he’s at it again!  That Hinton bloke is going to be the death of me.”

“Marshall, you know that’s impossible.”

Me (April 2010, age 57).  The implications are profound

Clearly, Marshall McLuhan’s biographers have recognized that McLuhan’s brain surgery had serious and irreversible effects on Marshall McLuhan:  that he was fundamentally changed.  But they do not seem to realize – or want to realize – the extent to which McLuhan changed or what this change means for our understanding of McLuhan and his work.

Of all McLuhan’s biographers, Douglas Coupland comes closest to capturing the seriousness of the effects of the surgery.  But he does not go far enough or draw from it some basic conclusions.  (If you have been following this blog you know that my belief is that the surgery killed McLuhan’s genius.)  Here, I think, are three of those conclusions:

  1. Reading McLuhan is difficult, but the true McLuhan is to be found in the essays and books he published before the surgery of November 1967.
  2. Reading McLuhan is far more difficult in the essays and books published after his surgery because they were stamped by the influence of the surgery and that of his colleagues and co-authors.
  3. The best way to understand McLuhan (conversation not writing was his strength) is to attempt to hear him speak in interviews, letters, and the memoirs of the people who knew him.  As always, I believe, it is best to pay more careful attention to McLuhan in the years before his surgery than after.

What implications of this for your understanding of Marshall McLuhan?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan (2009)], pp. 182-83, p. 185

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Michael Hinton Saturday, April 17th, 2010
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How did the operation end?

Marshall McLuhan (April 16, 2010, age 99). This is getting a bit too personal!

“Corinne, you will not believe what that Hinton bloke is going on about in his From Marshall and me blog.  Says the brain tumor operation cost me my genius!  How can he say such a thing?  Look at all that I did despite that operation.”

“Calm yourself Marshall.  Who are they going to believe?  You or him?  Did he win the Governor General’s award for non-fiction?  Did he win an Order of Canada?

Me (April 2010, age 57).  What do Marshall McLuhan’s biographers say?

Marshall McLuhan’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 McLuhan’s first major biographer, has to say about the effects of the operation on McLuhan: “The effects of the operation would linger for the rest of McLuhan’s life.  In the months immediately following, it was dramatically obvious to his associates that McLuhan had changed.” The changes being: hypersensitivity to sound, loss of energy (which had been “his most obvious professional asset’), loss of a “photographic memory,” permanent loss of specific memories of reading over the previous “several years of reading,” the loss of “emotional and intellectual resilience,” and a strange new degree of fragility, irrationality, inflexibility, and quarrelsomeness – resulting in his uncharacteristic abusiveness “to students and colleagues.”

And Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan’s most recent biographer, says of the operation – which he describes as “a gross insult to the brain”: “he was back again, but he was back in reduced form.  He had, in fact, lost swaths of memory; curiously, he had trouble remembering books he’d read many times over. … [H]e lost some of his ability to be civil to colleagues and students. In addition, his hypersensitivity to noises, always high, became extreme.”  And “Marshall’s highly intrusive brain surgery at the age of fifty-six signaled the beginning of an end – the end of the high-water mark of Marshall’s fame, his notoriety, his earning potential, his vitality, and his ability to soak up information and to locate patterns.”

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

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Michael Hinton Friday, April 16th, 2010
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What do the experts know?

Marshall McLuhan (January 28, 1966, age 54). They know too much.

Did you hear the story of the soft-hearted brain surgeon who when a patient told him he couldn’t afford surgery offered the retouch his x-rays for free.  Experts never cease to amaze me.  Tom Paine said that it’s not what we don’t know that hurts us but what we know that isn’t true.  Experts are masters of this, of what they know that assures them that new ideas must be false.  Whatever you say, they rest easy, knowing it can’t be true.

Me (April,  2010, age 57).  Perhaps they do.

Marshall McLuhan’s idea is that the experts starting point to any idea is that it must be wrong.  That is that there is nothing new under the sun.  No matter what your idea is it must have already been tried.  And therefore it must be wrong because if it wasn’t it would have been shown to be right, and we would know it already.  What this means is that not being an expert gives you an advantage.

What is your advantage?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 334.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, April 8th, 2010
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Before and after

Last week, as you know if you’ve been following this blog, was different from previous weeks.  The standard format was dropped, and instead I posted a 5-part essay explaining what I believe is the single most important thing you need to know to understand Marshall McLuhan.

What I argued is that Marshall McLuhan lost his genius as a result of surgery to remove a brain tumor in November 1967 and as a result if you want to understand McLuhan you need to read and listen to him as he was before the surgery.  McLuhan before the surgery was in conversation lucid, mercurial, and inventive.  In print he is original and exciting.  McLuhan after the surgery was clever, but confusing.  In print he leaned too heavily on his coauthors without whom he might never have managed to meet a deadline.  In conversation he seems to be distracted by small things or stuck on the pursuit of new ways to frame his old ideas.  Gone is high definition low definition in figure and ground, left brain and right brain.

This is controversial.  I do not expect to persuade you to view McLuhan in a new way in one leap, for that is certainly not how I did it.  Consider first what is agreed by his biographers.  The 1967 surgery was dangerous.  He was changed as a result of it.  He lost his prodigious memory and energy.  He lost years of reading.  He became petty and short tempered.  The question is:  Was it a fundamental change?   I believe it was.

Below are two videos of McLuhan being interviewed:  The first from 1960, seven years before the surgery.  He is 46.  The second is from 1976, nine years after the surgery he is 65.  Watch them.  Compare McLuhan before and after.  Ask yourself: Is it just age that is damping him down?  Tomorrow, which my 100th post of this blog, which I remind you is both a tribute and lament for Marshall McLuhan, I return to the standard format.

Cordially, Me

Marshall McLuhan

1. Marshall McLuhan Explorations: The global village on CBC Television [Broadcast Date: May 18, 1960]

http://archives.cbc.ca/arts_entertainment/media/clips/1814/

2. Marshall McLuhan on the Today Show interviewed by Tom Brokow [Broadcast Date: September 24, 1976 after the Presidential Campaign Debate Between Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, September 23, 1976]

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
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Now for something completely different, part 5 …

This week’s blogs are very different from those of previous weeks.  The standard format of two short letters, one from Marshall McLuhan and one from me, is abandoned.  Instead I am posting, in 5 parts, an essay which explains the single most important thing you need to know to understand Marshall McLuhan.

Previously, in part 1, posted Tuesday, I asserted that Marshall McLuhan lost his genius as a result of surgery to remove a brain tumor.  In part 2, posted Wednesday I explained why it was necessary and how it was carried out.  In part 3, posted Thursday, I explained why the operation was so damaging to McLuhan.  Did McLuhan lose his genius as a result of the operation?  I think so but you may want additional evidence.  Yesterday, in part 4, I talked about two other pieces to this puzzle.  Today, in part 5, the final chapter of this story, I talk about the meaning of it all.

Cordially, Me

Genius has brain surgery and loses his mind:  The untold story of Marshall McLuhan

By Michael Hinton

In the final chapter of classic detective fiction, the crime is solved when the great detective – Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, for example – gathers all the suspects gathered together in the same room, lays out the evidence, and identifies the guilty party. Before I make my attempt to play the great detective, I want to say something briefly about what genius is and what it matters whether or not McLuhan’s genius was lost.

Genius the Romans thought was the essence of our character or personality.  There is no doubt that in this sense, McLuhan’s brain surgery killed his genius.  All his biographers I think would agree on this.  He was a different man after the operation.  But this is not what I mean by genius.  I mean that “inborn exalted intellectual power” that “extraordinary imaginative, creative or inventive” spark that allows some minds to work faster than anyone else, for a longer time, and come to different conclusions.   How many geniuses are there?  Dr. Del Maestro told me that he believes the answer is something like one in six billion and that he had no doubt that McLuhan was a genius.  How many lose their genius?  Some; certainly Churchill did and so did Dr. Johnson, as a result of illness and possibly dementia.  How many have lost their genius as a result of brain surgery?   Possibly, only McLuhan, the numbers of true geniuses being small.

Understanding Media which was published 45 years ago is clearly the work of a genius, but not one who is easy to understand.  To understand McLuhan you need to know that: (1) his greatest ideas can be found most vigorously expressed in his speaking and writing before his brain surgery in 1967; (2) the spoken word is the vehicle of his genius; and (3) his earlier work is generally speaking easier to understand than his later work because in his earlier work he was less concerned with presenting his ideas in mosaic form.

You can listen to McLuhan speak in his letters, his interviews, and his speeches.  His writing before Understanding Media and the Gutenberg Galaxy can be found in his essays from the 1950s and 1960s in McLuhan Unbound, and his Report on Understanding New Media, 1960.   Even so he is never easy to understand for several other reasons.  His thought is densely packed with new ideas, in chapter 14 of Understanding Media, for example he identifies 100s of ways money can be thought of as an extension of our mind, bodies, or spirit.  He delights in decorating his ideas with references to writers from all disciplines.  In chapter 1 of the same book in the space of 6 pages (pages 9 to 14) he calls for support from the writings of Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, Troilus and Cressida), Hans Selye, General David Sarnoff, W.W. Rostow, John Kenneth Galbraith, David Hume, E.H. Gombrich, Cardinal Newman, de Tocqueville, Gibbon, E.M. Forster, and Walt Whitman.

He uses a special vocabulary that does not mean what you might think it does; hot and cool, for example.  His terms are often value-loaded; fragmented and visual bias, for example.  His primary goal is often to jolt his readers and listeners out of their complacencies rather than to lead them to particular conclusions; his speech [this blog] at the Museum of the City of New York, in October 1967, he outraged his audience with the notion that the invention of the fire engine caused the proliferation of slums in 19th century western cities. Before this, of course, as the history of Paris and London shows, but McLuhan does not bother to explain, fires were responsible for the regular clearing away of slums and the re-building of newer and better-designed cities, although at great cost in terms of loss of life and misery for the urban poor. And, he loved to joke around; the medium is the massage, for example, making it difficult to tell when he is joking and when he is not.

Now, to deal with the difficult question of causality, a question McLuhan wrestled with a great deal.  Who killed McLuhan’s genius?

Was it Dr. Mount? (Aristotle would have called Mount the efficient cause.)  Was it the art and practice of brain surgery? (Aristotle’s formal cause.)  Was it the length of the operation, the copper or nickel lifts, and the bruising of brain tissue?  (Aristotle’s material cause.)  Or was it McLuhan’s desire to live rather than die from the growth of the tumor?  (Aristotle’s final cause.)

I prefer a final cause solution.  That McLuhan killed his own genius.  But this is not the most important question.  The case of Marshall McLuhan is not, after all,  a “who done it.”  It’s a “what got done.”  What happened to McLuhan?  Did he lose his genius at the same time he lost his tumor?  If so a great deal about McLuhan which was mysterious now becomes clear.  Why his books after 1967 were never again as good as the ones before.  Why he can be read and understood more easily in his writing before 1967 than after 1967.  Why he was lionized in the 1960s and looked on as bit of a joke in the 1970s.  Why he is so poorly understood today.

McLuhan’s real tragedy was not the stroke that took away his power to speak in 1979.  His tragedy was that in choosing life in 1967 he had to let his genius go.  If there is a happy ending here it is that the real McLuhan, the genius, lives on in all that he did before November 1967.  And that is a legacy that will never die, and one we can return to whenever we wish for inspiration and enlightenment.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, February 20th, 2010
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Now for something completely different, part 4 …

As you know if you’ve been following, this week’s blogs are very different from those of previous weeks.  The standard format of two short letters, one from Marshall McLuhan and one from me, is abandoned.  Instead I am posting, in 5 parts, an essay which explains the single most important thing you need to know to understand Marshall McLuhan.

Previously, in part 1, I asserted that Marshall McLuhan lost his genius as a result of surgery to remove a brain tumor.  In part 2, I explained why it was necessary and how it was carried out.  In part 3, I explained why the operation was so damaging to McLuhan.  Did McLuhan lose his genius as a result of the operation?  I think so but you may want additional evidence.  Today, in part 4, I talk about two other pieces to this puzzle.

Cordially, Me

Genius has brain surgery and loses his mind:  The untold story of Marshall McLuhan

By Michael Hinton

Did McLuhan lose his genius as a result of the operation?  Was he greatly changed?  Beyond the facts of the surgery itself, consider these two other clues.  First the first clue.  “Corinne [McLuhan] was very sharp and lovely and graceful,” historian Nicholas Olsberg, wrote me from his home in Arizona.   “Always seemed odd that she made her match with such a clumsy guy [Marshall].”

In the winter of 1981, not long after Marshall’s death, Nicholas Olsberg spent his days valuing McLuhan’s papers ($1 million Canadian was the final figure) and his evenings chatting with Corinne, as a guest in Marshall’s house, at 3 Wychwood Place – sleeping in his study, surrounded by his books.  It was during these conversations, undoubtedly, that Olsberg heard about Marshall’s clumsiness.  The answer to Olsberg’s puzzlement about why a beauty, a 10, like Corinne would marry a clumsy, a 5, like McLuhan, of course, is that Corinne didn’t marry a clumsy guy.  She married a tall powerful guy who won his rowing oar at Cambridge and missed a Rhodes scholarship, not for physical clumsiness, because for intellectual arrogance.  The clumsy guy was created I submit by seizures, strokes, and most of all by a surgical operation to remove a brain tumor and the medication he needed to take in recovery to deal with the pain.  The Marshall McLuhan Corinne talked about to Nicholas Olsberg was not the pre-1967 genius, but the post-1967 diminished, clumsy-guy.

The second clue is in the jokes that are told about McLuhan, and, in particular, one specific joke.  Jokes, McLuhan liked to say, borrowing the observation from Steve Allen, are based on grievances.  Jokes about McLuhan are based on the grievance, the complaint, that no one can understand him.  That was the joke on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.  That was the joke in the famous New Yorker cartoons on McLuhan of the 1960s.  That was the joke in the famous bit of doggerel by A.J.M. Smith, “McLuhan put his telescope to his ear; What a lovely smell, he said, we have here.”  And that was the joke about McLuhan in Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall.

Canadians who were twenty somethings in the 1970s, as I was, probably remember McLuhan best from his walk-on role in Annie Hall.  The joke in the film, made in 1977, ten years after the operation, has been misunderstood by his fans.  His biographers Judith Fitzgerald and Terry Gordon, for example, talk about his performance as an example of what a funny guy McLuhan was and how Woody didn’t get him.  (The camera’s rolling.)  A Communications Prof. from NYU is talking to his girl out front of a movie theatre.  He’s talking about McLuhan.  TV’s a hot medium, he says, blah, blah, blah.  Woody hears this and gets irritated, (McLuhan said TV is a cool medium) and gets McLuhan.  And McLuhan tells the guy off, ad-libbing:  ‘You know nothing of my ideas. You think my fallacy is all wrong?”  This breaks everyone up. Woody gets irritated again.  (This time for real.  McLuhan’s up-staged him.)  Woody demands the scene be done over, and over again, which tires McLuhan.  (Who does look tired and very thin.)   He insists McLuhan say his lines differently – say focus not fallacy, and don’t say it as a question.  In the end fallacy stays but the joke, one of McLuhan’s favourite lines which he likes to use with hecklers, is spoilt.

The truth of course is different.  Woody not McLuhan knows best about comedy.  They re-shoot because that’s how movies get made.  McLuhan’s ad lib is not a brilliant performance.  The guy he tells off isn’t a heckler, he’s a misinformed fan.  McLuhan’s line is a solution for the wrong problem.  The genius McLuhan would never have done this.  He might have said “With friends like you, who needs fallacies,” or “You have my fallacies all wrong.”   McLuhan is funny in the film because the joke does not hinge on words; the joke is McLuhan. The joke is his very presence.

[to be continued…]

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Michael Hinton Friday, February 19th, 2010
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Now for something completely different, part 3 …

This week’s postings are very different from those of previous weeks.  The standard format of two short letters, one from Marshall McLuhan and one from me, is abandoned.  Instead I am posting, in 5 parts, an essay which explains the single most important thing you need to know to understand Marshall McLuhan.

Previously, in part 1, I asserted that Marshall McLuhan lost his genius as a result of surgery to remove a brain tumor.  In part 2, I explained why the surgery was necessary and how it was carried out.  In part 3, today’s post, I explain why the operation was so damaging to McLuhan.

Cordially, Me

Genius has brain surgery and loses his mind:  The untold story of Marshall McLuhan [cont’d]

By Michael Hinton

To get a second opinion on the possible consequences of McLuhan’s operation I spoke with Dr. Rolando Del Maestro, MD, Ph D, FRCS (c), FACS, and DABNS.   Dr. Del Maestro holds the William Feindel Chair in Neuro-Oncology at McGill, directs the university’s Brain Tumor Research Centre, and is Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurology and Professor of Oncology at McGill’s Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital.  He has performed or assisted in between 5,000 and 6,000 operations to remove brain tumors.  Perhaps not surprisingly, in the small world that is world-class neurosurgery and research, one of his teachers in neurosurgery at Western knew Dr. Mount, and he was also taught and was a colleague of Dr. Henry Barnett, who was McLuhan’s neurologist in the 1970s in Toronto and treated him for his stroke in 1979.  Last but not least, Dr. Del Maestro is a student of genius, in particular the life and work of Leonardo Da Vinci.

When I spoke with Dr. Del Maestro I told him what McLuhan’s biographers had to say about the surgery, and the circumstances leading up to it.  I expected him to tell me that there is little he can say about the possible effects McLuhan might have suffered without seeing his medical records and even so every case is different.  But he did not do so.  Instead he told me that McLuhan must have suffered some cognitive impairment.  The problem was the length of the operation.  Oxygenation is not a concern, however, the problem is that in the surgery, which in its fundamental aspects is carried out today in much the same way as it was done in Dr. Mount’s time, the brain is lifted to get at the tumour by nickel or copper lifts.  Over the many hours the brain was lifted the brain tissue, (the little grey cells Poirot called them) must inevitably be bruised, the cells damaged.  Forgive me for saying this, he said, if you were a construction worker you could recover from a surgery like this and return to work.  But if you’re a surgeon, an architect, or a NATO general performing at a high-level you can never go back and work at the same level.  In all your years of experience, I said to him, have you ever known or heard of anyone who fully recovered from an operation like McLuhan had?  No, he said.  But then, after a brief pause, he said.  Let me think about it.  If I discover such a case I’ll call you.  (So far, he has not called.)

But this isn’t conclusive evidence is it?  What would it take to persuade you if you are presently unpersuaded?

McLuhan’s medical records?  Even if I could show them to you, and I cannot – Columbia –Presbyterian will not release them without permission from McLuhan’s family and the McLuhan family is unlikely to give me their permission to see them – I doubt that would do the trick.

What about testimony  from Dr. Barnett, who treated McLuhan in the 1970s?  Perhaps.  I spoke with him – he is in his 90s – but he would not grant me an interview without the permission of a member of McLuhan’s family.  I phoned Stephanie McLuhan – one of Marshall McLuhan’s daughters.  I left a message asking her permission to speak with Dr. Barnett.  She returned my call, and left a message asking me who Dr. Barnett was, saying that she did not recognize the name.  I phoned back and left a message saying that he was her father’s neurologist.  She did not call me back.

What about letters to and from McLuhan in the months before and after the operation?  These might be revealing.   Unfortunately, McLuhan’s letters from 1967 and 1968 appear to be missing from the McLuhan Papers held by the National Archives.

But consider these two other items and see if they tip the scales.  The Nicholas Olsberg clue and the Annie Hall clue.

[to be continued…]

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Michael Hinton Thursday, February 18th, 2010
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