The multiplicity of the contemporary world breeds pedants and gurus: we need the former to show us the weaving, the latter so we may behold the design. Occasionally these differing, functions come in one outsize personality, like the celebrated Marshall McLuhan. We never see the element we are immersed in, says McLuhan--at least, we don't until we take some perspective on it, an aerial view, perhaps, which brings things in close-up: (the "mosaic" of the daily newspaper, for instance) or which expands into panoramic largesse (the "landscape" of the mind, "model" of the universe, and so forth). Not exactly novel terms or ideas, of course, but they are peculiar to McLuhan, and it's nice to see, as this retrospective (1943-1962) selection of literary criticism demonstrates, that he's been using them for quite a while. Here he is on Ulysses, which because it all takes place on one day he likens to a newspaper: "The frankly newspaperish aspect of this epic derives from the speculations of Mallarme who regarded the press as a new kind of popular poetry. . . . History is abolished not by being disowned but by becoming present." This sounds iconoclastic (and a little raffish: Mallarme's hierarchy of values, Joyce's myth-making--these do not appear to "fit" McLuhan's insight); but, never fear, McLuhan (pedant as well as guru) is sanely anchored to tradition. Thus in his interesting essays on Keats (the "music" of the language) and Tennyson (the "picturesque" idiom) he celebrates the Romantic movement as a continuing experience, and even designates Coleridge as the prototype of Cubist discontinuity. Like the Kennedys, McLuhan is a New Frontiersman with conservative tastes; like them, he has had his moment of glory. His prose is most dazzling when most inexplicable; he feeds our fancies.