You Know Nothing About My Work!

Douglas Coupland has resurrected the brilliance of my favorite scholar, Marshall McLuhan. Page one of today’s New York Times Book Review, David Carr writes a glowing review, “Media Savant” of this new book titled: Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! 216 pp. Atlas & Company. $24.

As a recovering academic, I studied and taught the theory of mass communication put forth by Canadian Marshall McLuhan for more than 20 years. I can hear the groans of recognition from former students required to read both McLuhan and Coupland’s Generation X for my Introduction to Mass Media freshmen level course.

Seems fitting that Coupland pay tribute to the master theoretician for this new millenium. His novels embrace a world view about how communication technology alters our sensibilities without our conscious awareness.  David Carr writes that it’s “an odd title for a weird book. Not weird bad; just weird in a way that makes you stop and think about precisely what the author, Douglas Coupland, is up to.”

Coupland is up to doing justice to the man, the myth and the legend by telling readers his tale in a McLuhanesque manner. Books are hot. Paperbacks are cool. The pastiche of a postmodern book is precisely the style McLuhan used in his final publications. The point of which is to make the reader conscious of the act of reading and the production of meaning.

McLuhan’s War and Peace in the Global Village is a book I assigned for a senior seminar in the spring of 2002; the last semester before I escaped and kissed those golden handcuffs of tenure goodbye. After September 11, 2001, McLuhan’s insights were the best I had left to offer my students in understanding the world around them. While McLuhan was writing about Patty Hearst and discussing the Nixon Kennedy debates on television as anecdotes to illustrate his theoretical arguments, what he said half a century ago is more relevant today than then.

McLuhan’s books are keepers. I still have a 1964 paperback edition. Yet in the late 1990s most editions were out of print and my students relied upon a backlog of raggedy used copies or borrowed from libraries.

I’m just so happy to see this book out. Get it. And get ahold of Marshall McLuhan’s most comprehensive expression of his theory in Understanding Media. Would love to talk to others about the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and Douglas Coupland and how they relate to understand this mad mad world.


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