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Extraordinary Canadians: Marshall McLuhan
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Extraordinary Canadians: Marshall McLuhan (Extraordinary Canadians)

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  498 ratings  ·  85 reviews
The importance of Marshall McLuhan and his communication theories cannot be overstated, but his written works—dense, at times even daunting— are more often cited than read. Nonetheless, his predictions have been borne out: in the early 1960s, McLuhan wrote that visual, individualistic print culture would be replaced by what he called "electronic interdependence," creating ...more
Hardcover, 251 pages
Published March 16th 2010 (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,384)
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Emanuela
Bella questa biografia del famoso massmediologo. Presenta il personaggio con una lettura attuale nei riferimenti legati alle scoperte delle neuroscienze e della psicologia, farciti da giochi di parole, tanto cari a McLuhan, anagrammati da applicazioni di Internet e schede dei suoi libri nelle prime edizioni originali in vendita sui bookstore.

Il cervello dell'uomo che ha inventato le espressioni come "Galassia Gutemberg", "Il medium è il messaggio", "Villaggio globale" era allo stesso tempo frag
...more
Paul
Having just read the book almost non-stop I'm currently rating this as one of the best books I have ever read. Firstly it is very well written. The author knows his subject and is able to identify key formative moments in Marshall's life and family background and even his physiology. Secondly I knew nothing of Marshall and now want to read him. Marshall wrote that "the medium is the message" in 1962. It took neuroscience another 40 years to concur, e.g. reading continuous narrative wires us diff ...more
Owen Swain
Jul 20, 2011 Owen Swain rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Canadians, students of media and culture
Coupland is a excellent writer, [UPDATE: I qualify that statement with another review http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...] in this volume writing about a extraordinary mind. Of the many books on Marshall Mcluhan this one is the foremost primer and for a primer it is also entertaining. This is because of Coupland's engaging writing style and his own abilities to assess and assimilate information and to make connections other people either haven't made or haven't articulated well.

My only quib
...more
Jud Barry
[review by Maf, Marilyn Monroe’s Maltese mutt]

alliteration: m, mm’smm. see? i mean, hear? oh, but that’s not all: the subject of the review is a book about marshall mcluhan. so we get two more m’s: mm! and then, hey, media message! two more! what a string of m’s! get it? wow! no, bow wow!

here’s the most important thing you can know about marshall mcluhan, which i dug up like a bone buried in the loam of this tome [i very much regret the many artistic/autistic devices in this review, i do, i do,
...more
C
Coupland's take on Marshall McLuhan is more long-form journalism than comprehensive biography, but that's no criticism. In 200 tiny-sized, large-fonted typewritten pages (many of them MapQuest directions and other gimmicky internet references) Coupland succeeds in the dual goal of convincing his reader that 1) Marshall McLuhan's intellectual legacy is formidable and misunderstood, and 2) that Coupland has the unique capacity to truly understand him. The second goal excuses Coupland's choice to c ...more
Ben Bush
Coupland says McLuhan's writing is sometimes considered nearly unreadable and that was certainly my experience when I gave it a try. The surprising stuff about McLuhan in here is his devout Catholicism, his extra artery to his brain and how he's often mistaken for liking emerging electronic media when in fact he disliked it but found it interesting. Coupland overuses the phrase "tipping point" which makes a comparison between McLuhan and Gladwell spring to mine. Coupland's Generation X made a bi ...more
Chad Kohalyk
Coupland's conversational tone is fluid as ever, and entertaining in his trademark ADHD fashion. Like Microserfs and JPod, this book is a physical work of art. Pages are adorned with language experiments in consonants, vowels and anagrams. He pastes in quotes and AbeBooks book reviews of McLuhan's works. I think he goes a bit far including excerpts from his own writing, revealing his inherent narcissism. The book is a fun and short read, but not all that enlightening of its subject as far as bio ...more
Peter
Excellent post-modern biography/mythology of the man with too much oxygen in his brain who saw things others couldn't and described them in ways people still argue over thirty years after his death. A joy to read, and a sorrow: Coupland's "Marshall" is that human, that accessible in this fine book.
Michael
I really liked the writing by the author. I also liked his taking a very complex subject (Marshall McLuhan) and presenting him in a more understandable way. He both lauds and unpacks and demystifies (and in a strange way - mystifies) - this very interesting, insightful, and complex man.
Douglas Tatelman
Marshall McLuhan knows why I love my car... " for the time-frayed the womb-like security of the limousine is beautiful because it promises pneumatic bliss." and “The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound.”

He also understood Twitter - how it creates an electronic village that can suffer from the same problems of a village - "It certainly contracts the world to village size and creates insatiable village tastes for gossip,
...more
Mark
Oct 25, 2014 Mark marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Second review I've seen: http://www.tnr.com/book/review/the-me... Not sure where the first came from.
Charlie
A delightful read despite a few Internet-spoofing/inspired typographic and content experiments.

Because I truly know nothing of McLuhan's work, I was open to everything in the book and never had a chance to think that Coupland got something wrong or misinterpreted some essential part of McLuhan's thought. Your mileage may vary depending on how much you know.

This book did exactly what a pop biography should do. I feel like I understand McLuhan's position in our academic history a little better and
...more
Jason
"We don't know who discovered water, but we know it wasn't the fish"
MM


My dad told me that he had a class with Marshall McLuhan, back in the early 60s, at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto. When I asked him what he remembered of that class, he stated: " I remember the medium, but not the message". He did remember a cancelled seminar; a note posted on McLuhan's door that explained he had to fly to England to have breakfast with T.S. Eliot.

Flash forward several decades and I was studying
...more
Jonathan Fretheim
After hearing Coupland talk about McLuhan on TTBOOK I wanted to read this right away. I also understood a lot more about Player One, his latest novel.

This work is fun and frames biographer as a kind of "determinism detective"—finding all the what-ifs and just-rights that made McLuhan into McLuhan. Growing up on the Canadian prairies, the over-ripe fruition of an ad-centric North America during his early professional career, Marshall's place on what we would now call the autism spectrum, and his
...more
Harry Rutherford
Pointless fact about Marshall McLuhan: he has always been oddly tangled up in my mind with Malcolm McLaren, he of the Sex Pistols and Buffalo Gals. The lingering after-effects of a youthful misunderstanding. Malcolm McLaren, in turn, gets mixed up with Malcolm McDowell.

I'm a fan of Douglas Coupland's novels—they're not all masterpieces, but they're always worth reading—and his fascination with media, pop culture and technology made him seem an intriguing person to be writing a biography of McLuh
...more
Kira
It should go without saying that any biography that got me writing 1,000 words about its subject (see full review) probably did a decent job. And Coupland did. He writes with a casual voice that will please those fearful of biographies’ “boring” stigma. He inserts personal thoughts and anecdotes and doesn’t slow his pace in the interest of delving too deep on any particular topic. In all, he creates a strong overview, a book that will help you decide whether McLuhan is someone worth knowing more ...more
Martin Zook
Marshall McLuhan, somewhere, is getting quite a chuckle out of Douglas Coupland's biography of the prophet of the digital age, if only because Coupland's imaginative recounting has refashioned the typographical media of the book (a keystone subject of McLuhan's work) to reflect the impact of the digital media on its aging ancester.

The result is a format that is far more engaging and immensely more informative than the voluminous biographies that dominate the genre today. The biography, more than
...more
Ian
Have to confess I didn't know much about McLuhan before reading this book by Generation X author Douglas Coupland other than him being credited as being the source of two of the most well-worn, almost to the point of cliche, but still actually valid ideas regarding modern society, mass media, culture and communication of the 'Global Village' and 'the medium is the message.'

Turns out he was responsible for a few other well known concepts ('We shape our tools and afterward, our tools shape us' bei
...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)
(http://www.opinionless.com/book-revie...)

The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip it into a private line to speedily tailored data of a salable kind.
Marshal McLuhan – 1962

Wait, wh
...more
Ivan
Douglas Coupland has proven that to make a biography an exciting read, it needs an author who doesn't only know the subject in depth and master his or her works, but also feel them beyond neural aspects. one would probably has to read the previous 'serious' biographies of McLuhan to know deeper about his books and journals.

But there are some aspects you won't get from those. He rendered McLuhan's past from his autistic tendencies, his extremely wired brain, and his completely intricated relatio
...more
Eric
One of my favorite thinkers bio-ed by an author I also like.

It's a pretty straightforward biography/overview of McLuhan's life. Coupland writes that he thought it was important to take another look at Mcluhan's life today when the Internet is everywhere.

Coupland obviously admires Mcluhan, but he doesn't shy from some ugly things about him either. It becomes pretty clear that, for all his brilliance, Mcluhan may not have been a great guy to hang out with, unless you wanted to hear a genius/oblivi
...more
Ashley Bradley
This is the first time I've ever read, or heard someone I want to be like talk about someone who they took inspiration. This point of view was particularly interesting because, well, Marshall Mcluhan is dead. Coupland didn't approach it in a "I'm sad that one of my heroes is dead," of course -- he's a good writer -- but a way that was still true to his style. Something I've always thought about biographies, especially about writing them, is 'what if you piss the person off in their grave?' Coupl ...more
Josh C.
I understand what Coupland was trying to do with the structure of the book, but it's better in concept than execution. His fanboyism is also somewhat offputting. To be fair, though, it's something you know you're getting into with anyone writing on McLuhan in this generation, and Coupland has particular personal reasons and stylistic tics that push him further in that direction.

Worth the read, but glad it wasn't longer.
Andrew
Five things I’ve learned in the first 80 pages of Douglas Coupland’s intentionally poorly researched but ultimately charming biography of Marshall McLuhan:

1. McLuhan’s brain was fuelled by blood from the heart through TWO arteries at the base of his school, a trait mostly found in cats but not human beings
2. McLuhan developed an early obsession with G.K. Chesterton and sided with his sense of philosophical conservatism and Catholic orthodoxy.
3. McLuhan would always turn to page 69 of a book and
...more
Alexis
Sep 29, 2011 Alexis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I think this is my favourite of the 4 books that I've read in the Extraordinary Canadians series. Douglas Coupland was the ideal person to write this book. It includes weird information and additions to the text like an autism text (I scored low), and comments from the Internet.

I feel like I learned a lot about McLuhan as a person (HE TALKED A LOT), he was obsessed with Dagwood and he liked to eat steak, but not as much about his ideas. His ideas are actually a bit confusing, and I think I'd hav
...more
Noah Vickstein
Took off marks for deviating into psychopathology seemingly unnecessarily, and other related goofs that will need to be addressed for future re-printings. Enjoyed the unorthodox approach and appreciated the simple format. Great primer, just don't get sucked in by the pro-STEM propaganda.
Mfalco65
By no means is this the most definitive or in-depth analysis of McLuhan's work, nor is it meant to be. It glazes over entire sections of McLuhan's work while defining complex ideas like "the medium is the message" in a breezy few paragraphs. Ultimately, this makes the book the most unexpectedly fun read, which in its own way captures the eccentricities of McLuhan, both the man and his works. It's a book not bound by conventions and gleefully takes excursions down unexpected paths (often in the f ...more
Ryan I
Aug 23, 2011 Ryan I added it
"When you give people too much information, they instantly resort to patern recognition to structure the experience. The work of the artist is to find patters."

Douglas Coupland is the perfect candidate to write on the very misunderstood, but still very brilliant McLuhan, the very first metacritic.

Fun fact: McLuhan really really started coming into his own after he wrote an essay the comic character Dagwood, whom he loathed.

Also: The Discarnate Man: The Man Without Meat (page 200)

Tangent: liked
...more
Will
Douglas Coupland was probably the perfect person to write this short and entertaining biography. Coupland's own work meshes very nicely with Mcluhan's and they share more than a few biographical coincidences. Mcluhan comes across as a rather fussy, conservative and self-absorbed genius who made begrudging fans of his early doubters. This was a fast and engaging look into not only Mcluhan's worldview but Coupland's as well. This made me want to read Generation X, which Coupland admits was heavily ...more
Rick
What a wonderful book! You forget what a wonderful writer Douglas Coupland is, but when reading a well-researched work of non-fiction, his prowess is hard to ignore. And such a great subject. McLuhan is a fascinating, influential, difficult subject, and Coupland does a wonderful job depicting his life, his evolution in thinking, and his professional career. It's a great blend of biography and literary criticism, with a wonderful dash of insight into humanity. if that sounds overly fawning, perha ...more
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1886
Douglas Coupland is Canadian, born on a Canadian Air Force base near Baden-Baden, Germany, on December 30, 1961. In 1965 his family moved to Vancouver, Canada, where he continues to live and work. Coupland has studied art and design in Vancouver, Canada, Milan, Italy and Sapporo, Japan. His first novel, Generation X, was published in March of 1991. Since then he has published nine novels and sever ...more
More about Douglas Coupland...
Microserfs Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture Girlfriend in a Coma JPod Hey Nostradamus!

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“To bring order into this jangled sphere man must find its centre" Marshall McLuhan” 2 likes
“When hit with a genius idea, people tend to say, "Well, if I sat down in a chair and really thought about it, I could have had that genius idea, too." But they didn't--and even if they'd wanted to, it could never have happened.” 2 likes
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