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Posts Tagged ‘Marshall McLuhan’

Staff Picks: Baseball Cards, Barbarian Days, Blow-up Dolls

August 7, 2015 | by

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Cesare Paverse.

In the evenings, I’ve been reaching for Cesare Paverse’s 1936 debut collection of poetry, Hard Labor, translated from the Italian in 1976 by William Arrowsmith. Finished in exile in the small Calabrian village of Brancaleone, the book is haunted by disenchantment and a sort of muted longing. Pavese’s language is often plain, though nonetheless striking. His poems are short—few run over a page and a half­—but they read like stories. He takes us into the fields, where frost “murder[s] the wheat”; into the bedroom, where “[the girls] know how to love. They know more than the men”; to dinner. There’s a cat in heat, a waking country strumpet, a drunk whom he imagines fumbling into the sea. The ease with which Pavese kernels these small narratives into every one of his poems has left me in awe, wondering how his countless other works could have followed such a debut. Here are a few of my favorite lines from “Two Cigarettes”: “... If I come up to her room, / the woman whispers to me, she’ll show me a snapshot of him— / tanned and curly-headed. He shipped on dirty tramps / and kept the engines clean. But I’m better-looking.” —Caitlin Youngquist

War_So_Much_War-front_largeI managed to get my hands on an advance copy of War, So Much War, the first English translation of Mercè Rodoreda’s final novel, whose original Catalan version was published in 1980. The last shall be first, I guess: I’ve never read any Rodoreda until now, and hadn’t heard of her until last month, when my sister practically hurled a story of hers at my head. (I didn’t get to it.) So far the book has proven itself a weird but entirely bewitching introduction to the writer. The story follows Adrià Guinart, a teenaged boy who leaves his home in Barcelona at the onset of the Spanish Civil War, forging an errant path through the Catalonian countryside, making glancing and baffling contact with the fighting. More than anything, it’s a medieval romance. The first clue is the novel’s elliptical title (in Catalan: Quanta, Quanta Guerra…), which suggests romance’s cumulative, episodic, ongoing form. Sure enough, the plot is mostly a list of encounters. But romance is as much about discreteness as it is ongoingness, and each of the book’s short, reliably surreal chapters is like a small, beautiful stone. What is astonishing is that Rodoreda writes without visible contempt for her form—a brave stance, considering that the Western novel arguably had its genesis in the ridicule of medieval romance. But the farther I get into War, So Much War, the more I realize that Rodoreda’s form is the only one suited for her subject: the interruptions, the absurdities, the frivolities of war. —Oliver Preston
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Where Are They Now? Part Four

August 28, 2014 | by

The fourth in a week-long series of illustrations by Jason Novak, captioned by Eric Jarosinski.

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Calm Down with Some Landscapes, and Other News

June 17, 2014 | by

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Li Shan, Wind and Snow in the Fir Pines, mid-twelfth to early-thirteenth century

  • Robert Frost: the least understood of the great modernists.
  • Marshall McLuhan: the most understanding of early teenagers.
  • I never dreamed of being a dominatrix, as a child might imagine driving a steam train, but when I became one I learned a trade as intricate, and as British, as that of the steam-engine driver.”
  • In twelfth-century China, the Confucian elite knew how to blow off steam: “In lieu of a literal return to nature, court figures would instead purchase landscape paintings and hang them on their walls. When they felt their souls growing jaded and heavy from quotidian concerns, they’d gaze at the lush scenes and transfer themselves into the place of their inhabitants—ink-brush silhouettes holding fishing rods, gathering plum blossoms and sipping a refreshing beverage in a rustic tavern.”
  • “You would think that a theme park attraction called the Palace of Unicorns would be a charming fantasy world. You’d be wrong. Located within Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park in Ho Chi Minh City, the Palace of Unicorns is a graphic depiction of Buddhist hell.”

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Douglas Coupland on Marshall McLuhan

February 1, 2011 | by

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980).

Douglas Coupland is the author of Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!, a pithy biography of the Canadian professor and communication theorist. McLuhan, who was born in 1911, is perhaps best known for coining the phrase “the medium is the message” and for anticipating the Internet decades before its arrival. Earlier this month, Coupland answered a few questions about his work as a biographer and what drew him to McLuhan.

You used an unconventional form for your biography of Marshall McLuhan such as MapQuest, an autism assessment test, use of Wikipedia as a source.

I did.

Was this innovative method a deliberate reference to McLuhan’s own idiosyncrasies? Or is it the reflection of a personal quirk?

Since starting the project I’ve felt like an unwitting manifestation of McLuhan’s beliefs about the effects of media: born 1961, TV child, Photoshop user, and so on. Having said that, I think I started the book at the crisis point in the history of biographies, and it’s a happy coincidence it happened to be Marshall.

Crisis point?

Twofold. First, if I want to know about Marshall or anyone, I can YouTube them, hear their voice, see them in action, read capsule biographies and dissertations on them—you name it. You can get a subjective and highly factual dossier on most anyone in the public realm almost instantly. It’s why publishers don’t worry about author photos any more; people just google a person and get on with things. Second, we’ve obviously entered the age of near total medicalization of personality. To write a biography of anyone, let alone someone so neuroconnectively fascinating as Marshall, seems like a gross abnegation of duty to truth. The biography has begun to morph into the pathography. Note: Marshall McLuhan’s left cerebral cortex was vascularized in a way only ever before seen in mammals in cats. He wasn’t just different; he was very different.

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