Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan (Penguin Canada, 2009)

untitledPart of a series on “extraordinary Canadians,” I was drawn to this brief biography because it coincided with the 100th anniversary of McLuhan’s birth, and because I thought it a stroke of genius to ask Coupland to write on McLuhan. The result is a fresh, insightful and at times psychedelic exploration of the McLuhan era. Coupland makes a convincing case for the brilliance, and continuing relevance, of McLuhan without ever descending into hagiography. All the essential biographical facts are present, and the author does not shy away from describing failures as well as triumphs. The McLuhan who emerges is one who challenged the safety and comfort of early 1960′s Canada, and who made a true intellectual mark on the world, while making a few enemies along the way – mostly stuffed shirts from U of T common rooms. Coupland also manages to link McLuhan to the emergence of “new information technologies” and the world of Facebook and Twitter, revealing how much he would have HATED it. Rollicking good fun!