Nicholas Carr reviews Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!, the new biography by Douglas Coupland on the man who "came to be worshipped as a techno-utopian seer in the early ’60s":

[McLuhan's] books read like accounts of acid trips written by a bureaucrat. That kaleidoscopic, almost psychedelic style made him a darling of the counterculturethe bearded and the Birkenstocked embraced him as a gurubut it alienated him from his colleagues in academia. To them, McLuhan was a celebrity-seeking charlatan.

Neither his fans nor his foes saw him clearly. The central fact of McLuhan's life, as Coupland makes clear, was his conversion, at the age of twenty-five, to Catholicism, and his subsequent devotion to the religion’s rituals and tenets. Though he never discussed it, his faith forms the moral and intellectual backdrop to all his mature work. What lay in store, McLuhan believed, was the timelessness of eternity. The earthly conceptions of past, present, and future were, by comparison, of little consequence. His role as a thinker was not to celebrate or denigrate the world but simply to understand it, to recognize the patterns that would unlock history’s secrets and thus provide hints of God’s design.

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