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Essential McLuhan Paperback – 1995
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Given the profound influence that the writings and teachings of Marshall McLuhan have had in the Information Age, it is surprising how few people have read anything more than context-free excerpts printed in indecipherable day-glo fonts over a background guaranteed to induce vertigo. But once you actually get around to reading McLuhan's ideas about the Global Village, the history of print, and the rise of digital media, you realize that behind the hype he did indeed make many substantive and influential contributions.
Surprisingly, most of McLuhan's seminal books are still out of print (as of 1996). Luckily, this collection of articles and excerpts from his most important books is a comprehensive and accessible overview of the musings of the "Patron Saint of the Digerati". It includes substantial passages from my favorite McLuhan book The Gutenberg Galaxy (a brilliantly provocative academic treatise about the history and consequences of writing and printing), as well as many articles and interviews you wouldn't find in any of his previously published books anyway.
The main weaknesses of this volume are that it does not include excerpts from the hyper-kinetic and image-packed "The Medium is the Massage" -- his main contribution to pop culture of the late '60s -- and that the sources of each passage are noted only in an appendix. It would have been nice if sources were noted at the beginning or end of each linear text, and I hope this is addressed in future editions. Other than these minor editorial quibbles, this book is highly recommended. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Frank Zingrone, Ph.D., is professor of communication at York University in Toronto. He has also taught at MIT and SUNY (Buffalo). He is an information scientist, poet, former associate editor of the Canadian Journal of Communication and a widely published media investigator.
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That's where a compilation like this one can come in very handy. For the new McLuhan reader, this generous collection offers enlightening snippets from nearly all of his major works, as well as some informative profile pieces. It's a great introduction to McLuhan specifically, and to media studies in general, and should nicely pique the interest for further study.
Anyway, this book seems to read like McLuhan always wanted it: short, digestible bursts of prose.
The Playboy Interview is fantastic. I always generally enjoyed McLuhan in a dialog scenario more than his writings, though his writings definitely tend to have more moving moments of clarity and epiphany.