Check the link below for a video clip of the Mailer/McLuhan debate and a link to the full TNR book review
The New Republic is today running my review of Douglas Coupland's biography Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! Here's the start:
One of my favorite YouTube videos is a clip from a Canadian television show in 1968 featuring a debate between Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan. The two men, both heroes of the 60s, could hardly be more different. Leaning forward in his chair, Mailer is pugnacious, animated, engaged. McLuhan, abstracted and smiling wanly, seems to be on autopilot. He speaks in canned riddles. “The planet is no longer nature,” he declares, to Mailer’s uncomprehending stare; “it’s now the content of an art work.”
Watching McLuhan, you can’t quite decide whether he was a genius or just had a screw loose. Both impressions, it turns out, are valid. As Douglas Coupland argues in his pithy new biography, McLuhan’s mind was probably situated at the mild end of the autism spectrum.