Now reading

W. Terrence Gordon’s Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding — the authorized McLuhan biography.
(Haven’t read Philip Marchand’s earlier and presumably ‘unauthorized’ take; wonder what he wrote to get so thoroughly omitted from this account.)
There’s a treasure trove here of context and digested primary resources for understanding the lived development of McLuhan’s thinking. The descriptions of midcentury academic culture are in themselves a striking glimpse at how much the institution itself has changed: cigar-smoking machismo! domestic salons! informally offered and abundant job opportunities! (I’m not saying those were better days, by the way: 200 pages in there’s only been one woman scholar mentioned.)
There’s also the simultaneously humbling and inspiring object lesson of how a Canadian lit prof became a global celebrity. At the core of this subplot seems to be a personal agenda composed in equal parts of arrogant hubris, vast imagination, and — less obviously but no less importantly — a symptomatically postcolonial ambivalence about Canadian culture and society.

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