What Came in the Mail


It’s been awhile since I’ve held a paperback that exudes this particular mid-1960s bouquet.  The last one I can recall that gave off this distinctive compact pulpish effervescence was my first copy of The Last Gentleman, published in 1966 and purchased by me in a used bookstore in Walla Walla, WA in 1986.  There was a near-pornographic image of a woman doing some sort of postmodern dance of the seven veils on the cover and in the air the smell of acidic pages destined to crumble as the 20th Century unwound. Now I turn to McLuhan for help in healing that wound Percy put his finger on, or at least in furthering the diagnosis.


  1. Alas, poor Marshall, always an oracle, never a savior…


  2. I am interested to hear what you think of the book. I have now read a good deal of it, and still have a weird feeling of not knowing exactly what conclusion I am meant to come to, except, perhaps, that avoiding new media is impossible and that they should be embraced, instead?

    Maybe I am missing something?

  3. What an amazing list from the New York Herald-Tribune: “The most important thinker since Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein and Pavlov.”

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      That list is from about four years before Ratzinger really started making a name for himself.

    • Jonathan Potter says

      I believe Tom Wolfe wrote that.

      • I’ve mentioned this before, but Wolfe has a great essay (written in Wolfe’s typically breathtaking early-NJ style) on MM:



        • I found this essay interesting. But the end of it sort of brought to the surface some of my uneasiness about McLuhan. Wolfe speaks of McLuhan and some others being at a “‘topless waitress’ restaurant,” and depicts the scene, in part, as follows:

          “[N]obody knows quite how to react, what to say, except for McLuhan. Finally, Caen says that this girl over here is good looking-

          ‘Do you know what you said?’ says McLuhan, ‘Good look ing. That’s a visual orientation. You’re separating yourself from the girls. You are sitting back and looking. Actually, the lights are dim in here, this is meant as a tactile experience, but visual man doesn’t react that way.'”

          What I don’t understand: isn’t McLuhan himself, as he offers this kind of observation, separating himself from Caen? Doesn’t his own posture as a cultural critic (but maybe I am wrong to categorize him in this way) require him to “sit[…] back and look[…]?”

  4. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    ‘It’s been awhile since I’ve held a paperback that exudes this particular mid-1960s bouquet.’

    I haven’t been able to track down confirmation in the original language, but somebody told me that, once upon a time in China, a person might compliment a learned member of a learned family by describing his house as ‘fragrant with the scent of old books’.

  5. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Party game: Obscure the text on the cover and have people guess, based on the art, whether a given book is by Marshall McLuhan or Philip K. Dick.

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