"Not only am I a Catholic," McLuhan candidly reveals conversationally, but the worst kind--a convert!" Everyone who knew that tidbit of information about the guru of media probably couldn't help wondering if it made a difference, and if so, how. As this book reveals, it did--at least to McLuhan. In that context, he was not only experimenting in the realm of media, and exploring its effects, but was also in the swirl of events surrounding Vatican II. While his books chronicled the former interest and passion, culminating in the photo-montage collaborations with Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Massage and War and Peace in the Global Village, almost nothing came to light of the latter involvement. Until now, that is. Included in this volume are four interviews and numerous letters on all things Catholic and all things media, written at a time when the former was in a time of turbulent upturn, and the latter only beginning to be explored. The most interesting essays concern the interaction of the two: the now common complaint that no one in the Church seems to have any understanding of "electric media," and that some of the modernizing efforts of Vatican II were, in fact, rendering it more, not less, out of step with the times. Priests and nuns were abandoning collars and habits, he noted, just when young people were donning costumes and dressing up. As a convert, McLuhan in some ways held surprisingly traditional Catholic views, and in candid letters he concisely and engagingly explains why. The first essay examines his debt to G.K. Chesterton, a writer who now, fifty years later, is being rediscovered. Some of the ideas in these essays are quizzical, and you can't help pondering them, such as the idea in a piece called "Liturgy and Media," that North Americans go outside to be alone, and inside for society, but that in Europe, it's the other way around. This book is filled with those sorts of little insights that you find yourself wondering about and debating. There are a couple essays I would have left out--they either seem too far from the topic or too "top shelf" to engage casual readers. Even so, this is one of the most readable and understandable of McLuhan's books. Even decades after he wrote, his ideas jump out of the page and his insights seem crisp and fresh. His solutions too, seem fresh and original, even if untried. For all his relevance in the 'sixties, his ideas may only now be coming into their own, and there may have never been a better time to discover McLuhan.
This collection of McLuhan's interviews, lectures and essays relating to religion in the age of electronic communication is as essential to today's readers as they were when written. 1954's 'Catholic Humanism and Modern Letters' is simply stunning. McLuhan's religious understanding of the world should not be forgotten when considering the prophetic outlook of his other works.