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.

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
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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