Not long ago, I met the son of an American friend of mine in New York for lunch. He had been brought up in California but had come east to pursue a career in journalism. He wrote about such matters as style and fashion for a magazine with a circulation of two million that, he said, was struggling financially. I did not at this point in the conversation mention the circulation of The New Criterion.

I asked him about his life. He had not much money, and lived in a very small apartment with other young people who were just starting out in life; evidently it was not easy for him, for he was unaccustomed to discomfort. “But,” he said, with something like a light in his eyes, “when I walk down the street, I sometimes see a celebrity, and there’s nowhere else that could happen.”

Though we were speaking the same language and drinking the same soup, I...