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Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! Hardcover – November 30, 2010

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“This delightful biography both entertains and instructs…illuminating the profound impact McLuhan had on how we think about media and communication.” (Ken Auletta)

“To read You Know Nothing of My Work is to behold a cultural Vulcan mind meld of mesmerizing intimacy.” (Walter Kirn)

About the Author

Douglas Coupland has published twelve novels since his first novel, Generation X, was published in 1991. He is also a visual artist, with exhibitions in North America, Europe, and Asia. He lives in Vancouver.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Atlas; 1 edition (November 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935633163
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935633167
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Martin Zook on June 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 anything else, clearly demonstrates what McLuhan meant when he wrote: "The medium is the message," in Understanding Media, his study of electronic media as it swallowed print. In that study, McLuhan pointed out that media would be forced to adapt to emerging media, or face annihilation. As an example, he pointed to two print products launched during the golden age of TV, a time when the p.m. newspaper was being wiped off the face of the planet by the disruptive electronic media. Life magazine and MAD magazine thrived because their formats reflected the influence of television's picture oriented format. Life's photos, and MAD's woodcut-like illustrations benefited from complementing the new media's format.

And, so it is with Coupland's biography of McLuhan, who prophesized the Internet 50 years ago, give or take.

The book's format of short chapters, similar to blocks of type on the Internet, direct writing typified by short declarative sentences, conversational style, with sections and chapters broken up by pages lifted from the www network, and quotes from McLuhan, demonstrate how books will change as a result of the Internet's dominance.

It's for better or worse, depending upon the eye of the beholder.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gord Wilson VINE VOICE on July 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I just got done reading this book. Only then it was called simply "Marshall McLuhan", and appeared in a series called "Extraordinary Canadians" Extraordinary Canadians Marshall Mcluhan. It was a bio that said more about Doug Coupland than about MM, which is to say, only DC could write it. Also only DC could re-cast, -version, -vive, and re-release it, or perhaps it was his publisher, editor, agent, or manager who got the brilliant idea to rename the book after McLuhan's line in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" (in which the late MM played himself).

After all, that's probably what most people know MM from. Or perhaps the unforgettable phrase, "The medium is the message". If anyone remembers any books, they are likely the photoessays by Jerome Agel and Quentin Fiore, "The Medium is the Massage" The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects and "War and Peace in the Global Village" War and Peace in the Global Village, which are long on photos and short on essays, and which MM had almost nothing to do with. They are sort of "greatest hits" collections of witty aphorisms, epithets, jokes, puns, and one-liners. In this MM excelled (witness the titles). Doug Coupland says that's the way his brain was wired. There was also "The Book of Probes" The Book of Probes from David Carson, author of "The End of Print".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gene Cassidy on April 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Douglas Coupland mixes insight about the present as seen from the past, insight about the past as seen from the present and has almost nothing to say about the future. He thinks his guess is a good as yours or mine. Who among us is smart enough and secure enough to say that?
The stuff about Marshall MacLuhan's neurology, his cultural, familial, geographic and historical background is the type of insight biographers struggle to achieve at many times the length of this precise book.
The idea that MacLuhan has been forgotten and dismissed because his work was about thinking - not the monetization and cubby-holing of thought - is Coupland's key analysis, though every page offers food for thought.
"You Know Nothing of My Work" is an inviting entryway to the imaginativeness that doomed the 60s and the thoughts of one of the Western World's greatest minds to forever stay in the 60s, while the rest of us re-invent the wheel and marvel at its shape and utility.
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Farrell on January 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Douglas Coupland (born 1961), the prolific Canadian novelist, has written a short book about the life and thought of the Canadian Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980).

Coupland's MARSHALL MCLUHAN: YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MY WORK! was originally published in Canada as EXTRAORDINARY CANADIANS: MARSHALL MCLUHAN, one book in the series of short books about extraordinary Canadians.

The subtitle of the American version of the book is taken from McLuhan's cameo appearance in Woody Allen's 1977 movie "Annie Hall." In the movie a pretentious academic holds forth about McLuhan's thought. But McLuhan himself emerges to tell the academic, "You know nothing about my work." Great put-down, eh?

Coupland believes that McLuhan's thought may be more important today than it was in his own lifetime, because computers and the Internet have given new meaning to McLuhan's expression the "global village."

Some younger people might not know much about Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980). Later this year, McLuhan fans will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. But who was McLuhan, and why is he important today?

With the publication of two books in the early 1960s, THE GUTENBERG GALAXY: THE MAKING OF TYPOGRAPHIC MAN (University of Toronto Press, 1962) and UNDERSTANDING MEDIA: THE EXTENSIONS OF MAN (McGraw-Hill, 1964), McLuhan catapulted to extraordinary fame, seemingly out of nowhere. In the 1950s he had not been widely known. However, he had been known to a small group of alert admirers. But along with his fame in the 1960s and 1970s came controversy and criticism. At times, the criticism was cogent and convincing. However, the criticism directed at him was frequently off target. In any event, many of his critics wanted to throw out the baby with the bath water, as we say.
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