Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Guest Post by Donna Rifkind: The NBCC at 35

By Jane Ciabattari

NBCC member Donna Rifkind reflects on the 35th anniversary:

Happy 35th anniversary, NBCC! It’s amazing to think of the changes in book culture since your inception, and just as breathtaking to imagine the changes 35 years from now. As we look back wistfully and think watchfully ahead, I think it’s important to remember what my longtime friend Georges Borchardt likes to remind people: that the good old days in publishing weren’t always so good. And I’d add that what lies ahead, though uncertain, won’t be all bad.

As book people, we ought to keep in mind that the revolution we’re involved in is one of technology and transmission, not intellectual thought. We’re still reading traditionally, no matter what manner of surface or screen we’re reading on. And we’re still writing, often too conventionally, regardless of how the shape and dimension of that writing changes. Yes, the new tools we’re using are bedazzling, and their potential exhilarating. But they’re still only tools. We should be trying to make a great leap forward in content, not just in process. We should be writing things people would want to read on any surface, in any format. Authors and critics alike—and in a more perfect literary world, there would be little distinction between the two—should be reaching for language that’s as new and powerful and beautiful as the tools we’re using to share it.