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.

The Tom Wolfe approach.

Marshall McLuhan (November 22, 1965, age 54). What a delightful portrait!

Corinne and I have just finished reading Tom Wolfe’s delightful portrait of me.  He’s got a few details wrong, but I like the big picture.

Me (March 2010, age 57). What a delightful approach

In 1965, at the height of Marshall McLuhan’s celebrity, Tom Wolfe published a profile of McLuhan in New York, the Sunday magazine section of the New York World Journal Tribune.  In that article which he revised and included in his 1968 collection of essays, The Pump House Gang, he probably did exaggerate how much McLuhan was paid for speaking engagements ($25,000 seems high), and his description of McLuhan’s pre-tied tie as a ‘snap-on’ is probably better described as a ‘clip-on.’ [earlier post].  But these are small quibbles, this is still one of the best short descriptions of Marshall McLuhan’s ideas, celebrity, and personality

His approach – captured in the title of his article, ‘What if he’s right?’ – is I think the best way to approach McLuhan’s ideas.  Consider, for example, one of McLuhan’s ideas which people in the 1960s considered crazy:  in the future goods of all kinds will be sold unwrapped in bins.  Today, with the rise of stores such as Winner’s and Whole Foods, and the environmental movement McLuhan’s prediction is sounding more and more like common sense.

What if he’s right?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 330.

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Michael Hinton Friday, March 26th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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