I began Michael Kammen’s biography of Gilbert Seldes after breakfast. Before breakfast, I’d read my morning newspaper, the Montreal Gazette, a sober broadsheet which has just started a weekly rock-video column —and nothing as humdrum and utilitarian as reviews of new rock videos, but rather a provocative and ongoing debate on issues arising and trends discernible therefrom. The connection between Seldes and The Gazette’s latest signing is made explicit in Kammen’s cumbersome title: The Lively Arts: Gilbert Seldes and the Transformation of Cultural Criticism in the United States. Perhaps we would have got here one way or another, but it’s still doubtful whether, without Seldes’s pioneering efforts, twenty-three-year-old female college graduates could have expected (or would have wanted) to make a living commenting on the intellectual themes arising from rock videos.

Sorry, I...

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