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Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!

(Extraordinary Canadians)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  715 ratings  ·  99 reviews
Marshall McLuhan, the celebrated social theorist who defined the culture of the 1960s, is remembered now primarily for the aphoristic slogan he coined to explain the emerging new world of global communication: “The medium is the message.” Half a century later, McLuhan’s predictions about the end of print culture and the rise of “electronic inter-dependence” have become a r ...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published November 30th 2010 by Atlas (first published January 1st 2010)
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3.92  · 
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 ·  715 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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Jud Barry
Feb 19, 2011 rated it liked it
[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,
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Brendan Babish
May 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
Was looking for a McLuhan for Dummies sort of book, instead Coupland focuses 90% on biography, 10% on McLuhan's work (which, admittedly, I know nothing of). So even though I (still) can barely summarize any of his main ideas, I do know what Marshall's favorite food was (steak).
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uni-reads
Marshall McLuhan, the celebrated social theorist who defined the culture of the 1960s, is remembered now primarily for the aphoristic slogan he coined to explain the emerging new world of global communication: “The medium is the message.” Half a century later, McLuhan’s predictions about the end of print culture and the rise of “electronic inter-dependence” have become a reality—in a sense, the reality—of our time.
Douglas Coupland, whose iconic novel Generation X was a “McLuhanesque” accou
Jonathan Fretheim
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Chad Kohalyk
Jun 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: working
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
Michael Halpern
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
While described as a biography of Marshall McLuhan, this was a bit too much of a collection of uncritical praise for McLuhan. For example, the author repeats McLuhan's comment that the ear rather than the eye was the primary sensory organ before the 16th century; only then (with the advent of movable type and increasing use of written communication) did vision become primary. However, this doesn't agree with what we know about neurophysiology. Approximately 30% of the neurons in the cerebral cor ...more
Ben Bush
Apr 08, 2011 added it
Shelves: read-in-nyc
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
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Who knew a biography on someone you really didn't know much about or care much about could be so freaking interesting?! I thought it was fantastic. Not knowing much about McLuhan's work, I feel now like I understand it in a very basic way. But more importantly, Coupland paints the picture fully, of the times he lived in, his family and lifestyle influences, the academic setting, everything. It made me wish that Coupland would go write a bunch of other biographies so I could read them.
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: media-ecology
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.
Jan 10, 2011 marked it as to-read
Second review I've seen: Not sure where the first came from.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The Biography is the Message

Repackaged with a catchier title “Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!” (the famous line given to McLuhan in his cameo in Woody Allen's Annie Hall), the only difference between the two works is that this edition was published as part of a series on notable Canadians and contains a series introduction by philosopher and social pundit John Ralston Saul. Coupland, a pop culture icon himself (Microserfs, Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is ev
John FitzGerald
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Coupland seems clearly to have intended this as provocative rather than encyclopedic. He's out to stimulate the reader's thinking as well as tell the reader his. His own thinking is heavily neurological, and in the absence of any confirmatory neurological evidence it remains speculative. However, it does concentrate on an aspect of personality that has been grossly neglected by biographers, and helps temper one's enthusiasm about conventional biographies.

But conventional biographies do have the
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a nice well written essay that reads with ease and quickly. If you expect a deep detailed explanation of McLuhan theory you will be disappointed. However, this is far from saying that this book is not insightful. The author understands McLuhan and his work and because of that he can deliver such a succinct overview of his most important ideas, using dynamic, humorous and even ironic style. This book is about McLuhan as it is about the author although Coupland skillfully (and intentionally) ...more
Adam Vanderlip
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Douglas Coupland was a really inspired choice to write this autobiography of the man who quite literally invented media criticism in Western Civilization, given how much novels like Generation X and Microserfs helped define and contextualize the changes that technology was having on the lives of people in the end of the 20th century. The book wisely avoids looking too deeply into some of the more esoteric of McLuhans work and instead is mostly a respectful look at how McLuhans rather odd nature ...more
Soren Dayton
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic memoir of a fascinating thinker. The memoir as form and the slipping between voices ("4th wall" kind of issues) makes for a really insightful view of the subject. It also helps demonstrate ("show") the McLuhan's thinking, not just describe ("tell") it.
Chris Urquhart
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those who feel overwhelmed by MM this is a very accessible entry point, and also a pleasant read.
Martin Zook
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: media
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
Aaron (Typographical Era)

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
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Harry Rutherford
Feb 03, 2012 rated it liked it
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 M
Jun 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"We don't know who discovered water, but we know it wasn't the fish"

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
Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Ashley Bradley
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Karl D Mowbray
I love Couplands work but I just couldn't connect with this book. It's not that the book is badly written it is more to do with the lack of connection to McLuhan that I have, I guess.
Jan 31, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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

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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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