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 (Fall 1951, age 40). Â Boredom is the enemy!
Finally my book on industrial folklore is being published by Vanguard Press.Â I will be very glad to get it out of my mind as it now seems to me to be ancient history.Â Iâ€™ve lectured it, written it, and the editors have hounded me to re-write it for years.Â Iâ€™m thoroughly sick of it.
Me (May 2010, age 57).Â Â Avoiding boredom came at a cost
Like all of McLuhanâ€™s books his first one, The Mechanical Bride, is not easy reading.Â Part of the reason is that he could not bring himself to rewrite.Â He wrote it seems to amuse himself and he wrote very quickly.Â Whenever he was asked by his editors to look again at anything he wrote he refused to clarify his ideas but instead added on new ideas to the ones already there.
The problem, said Seon Manley, who was an editor at Vanguard in the 1940s, is that anything that smacked of good writing – clarifying an idea, cutting extraneous material, or providing a telling example – bored McLuhan.Â And McLuhan refused â€śto bore himself.â€ťÂ The result was a style of writing many have found impenetrable.
How then should an intelligent reader approach the task of reading Marshall McLuhan?Â Read fast?Â Donâ€™t be afraid to skim or jump about?Â Donâ€™t worry if you donâ€™t get it?Â Realize, perhaps, youâ€™re not meant to?
Is it true, as McLuhan liked to say, â€śclear prose indicates the absence of thought?â€ť
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Reading for this post
Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 118.