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5.0 out of 5 stars McLuhan's Mythologies, April 11, 2007
This review is from: The Mechanical Bride : Folklore of Industrial Man (Hardcover)
This, McLuhan's first book, serves as a good introduction to him, since he has not yet begun to formulate his theories about media that would later make him so famous. Consequently, it is easier to read than, say, The Gutenberg Galaxy or Understanding Media. It is also much more fun.

The reader should keep in mind that this is still premature McLuhan, for he had not yet read Harold Innis's 1950 classic--which represents the true birth of media studies--Empire and Communications. This book hit McLuhan like an atomic bomb, for it completely ruptured his thinking regarding media. In The Mechanical Bride, he is still analyzing the content of the media, deciphering what the subliminal messages are saying to us unconsciously; but after reading Innis, he realized that it was not the message that was important (at least not for him) but rather the type of medium through which the message was conveyed, for Innis's discussions of how particular kinds of media affected the nature and structure of ancient empires caused McLuhan to realize that it was actually the medium that was the important thing. Whether a culture used clay or papyrus as its means of communication, Innis asserted, determined much about the fate of that culture.

With that caveat in mind, then, the reader is free to roam through these pages, observing a McLuhan that would never exist in the same way again. He comments, sometimes hilariously, on one advertisement, movie poster or magazine after the next. He has interesting things to say about genres like the Western or the soap opera (for instance, he says that the Western is the masculine equivalent to the soap opera, for its values are the opposite of those of the domestic drama) and we also find here, for the first time, his speculations on Sherlock Holmes, a theme that will recur in many of his later writings.

McLuhan at this point had read and metabolized such key thinkers for him as Lewis Mumford and Siegfried Giedion, and they are referred to often in the body of the text. (There even occurs a reference to Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces; apparently the only book he ever read by Campbell, his Irish intellectual colleague who was more concerned with deciphering the messages than the media themselves). McLuhan, in The Mechanical Bride, is still feeling his way, and he is not yet sure of himself. But it is a delight for the reader to watch this great American thinker--the equivalent, easily, of any of the great French postmodernists (this book bears certain similarities, for instance, to Barthes' Mythologies)--tentatively poking his way about in the middenheap of popular culture, looking for ways in which to organize it into something one can get a grasp on.

I hope that you enjoy this book as much as I did. But do let me know if you don't.

SEE ALSO MY YOUTUBE VIDEO "MARSHALL MCLUHAN CULTURE WITHOUT LITERACY DISCUSSION BY JOHN DAVID EBERT"

--John David Ebert, author of "The New Media Invasion: Digital Technologies and the World They Unmake" (McFarland Books, 2011)
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 9, 2012 11:52:37 PM PST
This is really a wonderful review, thank you!

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 12:19:39 PM PDT
RGlasel says:
Except for the sentence containing "this great American thinker" this is a good review of what "is still premature McLuhan". McLuhan was Canadian to the core, born in Edmonton, Alberta, getting his BA and MA from the University of Manitoba, and a member of the faculty at the University of Toronto from 1946 to 1979.
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