Saturday, September 2, 2023

Frank Zingrone & Don Theall

Frank Zingrone’s THE MEDIA SYMPLEX was published in 2001, within months of the publication of Don Theall’s THE VIRTUAL MARSHALL McLUHAN (2001).

Both books were attempts to throw original light on and probe or update the Madison Avenue “myths” about McLuhan, even attempting to go “beyond” McLuhan.

Subsequently, Don Theall passed away in 2008, months within the passing of Frank Zingrone (2009).

Frank (1933) was born 5 years after Don (1928), so they were contemporaries.

Both men were very close to Marshall McLuhan, even having attended Mass with Marshall since they were 22 years old.

Theall and Zingrone hardly knew each other until after they read each other’s books in 2001.

I was there to “broker" their growing interest in each other’s understanding of McLuhan’s career and art.

I was talking regularly with both men at the time and they often discussed the other’s work with me, until they were gone.

Their correspondence would be valuable to peruse. However, I don’t know where it's kept.

Don’s review of Frank’s book in 2001 is incredibly precise, pithy, revelatory, and “accurate”.

The quotation from the review below illustrates the essence of the slight difference in approach between the two McLuhan scholars.

In his trilogy on McLuhan and Joyce, Don retrieves a little-known distinction between “Menippean satire” and “Varronian satire”. The former being more “cynical” (tragic, serious, and dark - Lewisian) and the latter more “carnivalesque” (joyful, happy/silly, and hedonistic - Joycean).

Don thinks Frank misses these differences.

However, as Don states, Frank recognizes the practical use of “gnostic”, “spiritual”, and “aesthetic" elements by McLuhan, just as Don does.

So for me, it is very significant that Don's and Frank’s deaths bracket the appearance of iON in March, 2009.

As I got more familiar with iON’s many messages over the next 14 years, I saw how iON completes the comprehensive visions that Don and Frank had of McLuhan’s “message” about the coming Tech Body - today’s new GROUND and invisible/inaudible environment - that we all dimly experience today.

Don and Frank were the most “relevant" of the myriad of McLuhan interpreters we’ve ever heard of.

Here is the conclusion of Don’s review wherein Don defines the subtle difference between he and Frank whenever “McLuhan” is tabled for probing:

Although the spirit of McLuhan permeates it, The Media Symplex is quite distinct from McLuhan's work in its vision and some of the solutions to which it points. There are some differences from McLuhan, such as the absence of any extensive discussion of Wyndham Lewis, McLuhan's counter-balance to Joyce. But the problem of satire and comedy is crucial, for the book does not confront McLuhan's own sense of himself as a learned, Mennipean satirist, nor does it raise the role that satire might play in the envisioned potential renewal. This is even more telling, since Joyce's Wake is frequently cited as a work forcing "meaning to the edge of awareness," in the absence of the carnivalesque.

The dark vision with a glimpse of escape that The Media Symplex presents fits well with McLuhan's cynical Menippean satire, but the future must find a way of synthesizing not only the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious, but also the everyday carnival with which the electric media play as well as a genuinely playful and comic, yet learnedly satiric, critique. Yet this book is important since it does capture the essential schizoid struggle and the deep respect for gnosis, spirituality, and art that permeated McLuhan's work and on which Frank Zingrone builds his newer vision.
Bob Dobbs


piety piet said...

Bob, you are way way behind ... from all that lookinbeak you undilge

it's back2biobody [the george webb crowdsourcecobble {{trans}}version] ... sounds a little friendlier than 'chemical body' which helped me detest you tremendously i might add, .. but it is in fact every bit of duh satanic to date and then some, quadriloopholed perhaps even ... George warns we might see a 'celebrated'# version soon ... after decades of covert testing ... your foldcusion is nil in comparison, just evileyemirrorage.

# = as in the diabolicization of everything via dutch radio ... goin hysterically euphoric over some dastard palace or other with the templemound undertones that set and offset the current hypee ones ... all to veil the 'genie energy' plotswaddle in verzwachtelzachtsel ....

Bob Dobbs said...


I've been wondering why I hadn't heard from you in the past few years.

I missed your ridiculous poetry.

Anyway, you're never correct about me.

Unfortunately, that's just the way it goes...