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Marshall McLuhan: Escape Into Understanding a Biography Paperback – Aug 2003
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From Library Journal
In contrast to Phillip Machand's Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger (LJ 3/15/89), this authorized life draws heavily on McLuhan's diaries and private papers as well as on interviews with family and friends. Early on, Gordon takes a traditional biographical approach, focusing on McLuhan's childhood, Cambridge years, marriage, and conversion to Catholicism; later he turns to view the man who coined the term global village and became a pop icon with the publication of The Medium Is the Message (LJ 6/1/67) through a detailed analysis of his work. Gordon provides a straightforward and lucid account of McLuhan's life and ideas, at times defending the media guru against detractors. All facts and explanations notwithstanding, McLuhan remains an enigma. For academic and larger public libraries.?William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
A thoughtful study of the life and ideas of the celebrated media philosopher. Time--unkind to so many visionaries--is proving Marshall McLuhan only more and more prescient. His theories, popularly summed up in his famous phrase ``The medium is the message,'' seem to describe our computerized age with eerie precision. He was able to recognize, for example, that the computer would rapidly become an extension of the central nervous system, allowing individuals to extend the range of their sense perceptions. While computer- friendly, his opinion of television, often misunderstood and rarely enunciated in its full disdain, verged on the alarmist: ``If you want to save one shred of Hebrao-Greco-Roman-Medieval-Renaissance-Enlightenment-Modern-West ern civilisation, you'd better get an ax and smash all the sets.'' Given where his ideas would take him, it is superficially incongruous that McLuhan began his professional career as an English professor. But language has fueled much late-20th-century philosophy, and as Canadian academic Gordon (McLuhan for Beginners, not reviewed, etc.) meticulously demonstrates, much of McLuhan's work was substantively informed by a concern with grammar (in the classical sense of the study of relationships within language). At a time when many intellectuals chose either communism or Catholicism--usually for reasons more similar than opposite-- McLuhan chose the Church, and Gordon again carefully illuminates the connections to McLuhan's work. His ideas were dense, complex often to the point of convolution, and thoroughly interwoven. Gordon is not only a user-friendly explicator, he also is a dogged intellectual detective, tracking McLuhan's ideas down to their earliest beginnings. In more conventional biographical terms, this account suffers from the happily married, academically regimented dullness of its subject's life, conjoined with Gordon's relative lack of interest in all non-idea-related details. But as an intellectual history, it's first-rate. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
McLuhan is undeservedly a forgotten thinker today despite his prescient ideas about technology and media. We neglect his classic "Understanding Media" at out peril, especially his account in it of the paralyzing numbness that follows the discovery of any technology and that precedes human understanding and mastery. This includes the numbness that keeps the human race from seeing or understanding itself in the mirror of mass TV and mastering the technology in ways that benefit the human race.
McCluhan never saw a PC but he would surely rejoice at the invention of the digital, interactive PC. His spirit lives on in another oddly forgotten yet prescient little book: George Gilder's "Life After Television: the Coming Transformation of Media and American Life." (1988)
Back to Terrence Gordon, who fully understands all this and offers a warm and nuanced picture of McLuhan's. Few things have made me respect the Catholoic faith as much as Gordon's account of the faith and daily devotion that McLuhan practiced throughout his life.