Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marshall McLuhan

I'm reading The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man by Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1951; reprinted 2002 by Gingko Press). It is so perfect for me to be reading right now. When I heard about it on the design site You Work For Them I immediately thought how inspiring it would be for collage. It's full of old magazine advertisements from the 1940's. No wonder why TV advertising in particular is so twisted. It's roots are critically examined by McLuhan and his views are so cogent to me today that it is hard to believe they were written almost sixty years ago! It made me remember Wilson Bryan Key's book Subliminal Seduction which was assigned to me in college in 1977. I found an interesting discussion on subliminal advertising by Carrie McLaren.

What a mind! I think Marshall McLuhan is the person I'd most like to be stuck in an elevator with. (Well, apart from Leonard Cohen, especially if we could both be 20 years younger!) I especially love "How Not to Offend" (pp. 60-62) in which he notes the link that D.H. Lawrence makes with industrialization and the "cult of hygiene" and its disgust with the human organism. "Everybody stinks but Jesus" according to an old French Protestant hymn!

There's a nice list of Marshall McLuhan quotations here including one that goes: "I may be wrong, but I am never in doubt." I had a button saying that when I was a teenager but I never knew the source of the statement until now.

I was recently given a lovely stack of old Saturday Evening Post magazines (chock full of wonderful advertisements from the 40's and 50's) and I think The Mechanical Bride will help inspire me to make good use of them!

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