[Response to a letter from a listener]

Sunday, July 22, 1956

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Reads a letter from a listener and then responds. Person talks about Seldes' "mental incoherence," "stammering speech," and "rasping voice." Critic says to eliminate this farce. Comic book scholar. Lacks discipline and doesn't understand these things (mathematics and linguistics) at all. "Where did he come from and, more importantly, how soon can he be sent back?" Seldes responds. The only thing he defends himself on is the accusation that he is not an expert in these fields. He says he is an expert on popular arts. It's true that I refer to subjects that I have not mastered. My critic has a point, though I don't like the way he made it. I speak of these things because I am a citizen. These things interest me, even though I am an amateur in these fields. They are part of the life around me. They have a direct relation to my own work. Everyone ought to be interested in a subject and talk about it. The other matters are more personal. It's true at times I stammer and hunt for a word. These talks are impromptu. Ideally they would be conversations where people can interrupt and ask questions. Another listener has referred to his talks as "essays." Has asked his listeners in the past if they preferred the wandering talks or reading a prepared script. Listeners preferred the talks. Talks more about his talking style. Supposes the criticism may have come from a professional friend. Seldes just recently published a book.

Moves on to talk about education by radio broadcast and by television. Commercial stations. Then stations devoted specifically to education are coming up. The teacher who is unanswerable because they are in a studio and students can't ask questions. Parents want our basic educational system to spread. Good basic education is lacking. With broadcasting we have a new way to approach this. The use of commercial television in diffusion of education. If you destroy the tendency not to conform, then pure education itself is going to miss its target. Education to compete with other countries as well as to serve our own needs. Revising of textbooks. Textbooks inculcate us in the forms of democracy.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70486
Municipal archives id: LT7214

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


Lowell Institute


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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