PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Next Issue Alberto Manguel Selbstgefühl New poems by Fleur Adcock, Claudine Toutoungi and Tuesday Shannon James Campbell A Walk through the Times Literary Supplement
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

Yrs. To Hand: Marshall McLuhan Writes to Ezra Pound David Rollow
On Bloomsday in 1948 Marshall McLuhan wrote Ezra Pound a letter in praise of the Pisan Cantos. It closed on a query about detective stories: 'I've been pondering your remark that the Cantos are a detective story. Should be glad of further clues from you. But one thing about crime fiction that I have noted may or may not be apropos here. Poe in 1840 or so invented the cinema via Dupin' (McLuhan to Pound, 16 June 1948, Lilly Library Pound mss. II, hereafter LLY mss. II). Here is McLuhan at his most McLuhanesque - nutty at first glance. His most famous claim of this type is his interpretation of the myth of Cadmus sowing the dragon's teeth, which spring up warriors fully armed, as the invention of the alphabet. (Why are dragon's teeth like letters of the alphabet? 'The phonetic alphabet was the greatest processor of men for military life that was known to antiquity.' [Understanding Media, hereafter UM, p. 72])

Dupin deals with a corpse as stil life. That is, by cinematic montage he reconstructs the crime, as all sleuths have since done. Are Cantos 1-40 a reconstruction of a crime? (LLY mss. II 16 June 1948)

By golly, he was right about Dupin's frame-by-frame reconstruction of the crime, though it may not be true that Poe invented the motion picture. The insight, McLuhan realised, was a terrific lead, which he returned to in a ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image