Encountering Poe

In the summer of 1932 (when McLuhan turned 21) he and Tom Easterbrook worked their way across the Atlantic on a cattle boat.1 In a letter written on the boat McLuhan described his first encounter with Poe:

The little blue books [Oxford World Classics] have been doing the rounds of the cabin [of the boat]. I have read only one of them — Poe’s Tales. I find them amusing, interesting curiosities, anything but exciting or absorbing. It must be remembered [however] that he practically created the short story and the detective story at one stroke. (McLuhan to Elsie, Herbert & Maurice McLuhan, June 17-18, 1932, Letters 13-14)

  1. “We get up at 4.30 A.M. water all the cattle by pail then haul up 20 or so bales of hay from the hold, then 20 or 30 sacks of feed. After which we feed the hay then go up and wait for breakfast which comes along at 7. We are divided up into groups of 3 and each have 1/4 of the cattle to feed. After breakfast (8 AM) we clean up all the alley ways and troughs then bed the cattle, then give them each a pail of oats. This takes till 9.30 Then we are finished until 2 PM. At 2 we water and feed and then are free for the day.” (McLuhan to Elsie, Herbert & Maurice McLuhan, June 17-18, 1932, Letters 12)