Critical Mass

Guest Post: Kristina Marie Darling on the Next Decade in Book Culture

By Kristina Marie Darling

As we wrap up the “aughts” decade, the NBCC has sought the best guest posts about the future of book culture, including essays,interviews, and free-range opining. The topic: How do you see book culture evolving over the next decade? This addition to the series is from Kristina Marie Darling. Previous postings in the series can be seen here.

When I think of book publishing, I'm reminded of Marianne Moore's term “conversity,” particularly the suggestion that an editor's job is to perpetuate a dialogue between writers and their contemporaries.  In this sort of artistic exchange, a cultural “gatekeeper” has almost always been inevitable, deciding which conversations take place and who takes part in them. But this arrangement has been changing rapidly as we've entered twenty-first century.&nnbsp;With the popularization of e-books, self-publishing, chapbooks, and D.I.Y. publication, I see the privileged role of editor being increasingly democratized, thus allowing a greater  range of voices to be represented in any given person's library. 

For me, this is what's most exciting about the next decade in book culture. As a small press author and editor, I've watched groups who are marginalized by more mainstream literary outlets find community and artistic fulfillment by participating in D.I.Y., electronic, or print-on-demand publishing. Writers of feminist poetry and experimental fiction, for instance, now have a range of new, exciting opportunities made possible by such technologies. I think that the great success of such ventures as BlazeVox Books, Dancing Girl Press, and Birds of Lace Press speaks to this very idea. 

With that said, there are two problems with e-books, self-publication, and other D.I.Y. practices that I see dissipating in the next decade. The first is that of prestige value, which these sorts of books supposedly lack. I anticipate such non-traditional approaches finding greater acceptance as more and more authors utilize them, and as the best of these books are “legitimized” by major review outlets and other cultural authorities. Second, I've heard many readers complain that they simply don't know how to navigate the vast world of small press books and web-based publications. But with their burgeoning popularity, especially among aspiring academics, there will likely be an increased need to be able to do so. 

Moreover, these emergent literary communities have given rise to a wonderful diversity of writing, which makes navigating their various publications well worth the effort. I look forward to being surprised and moved by these new voices in the coming decade. 

Kristina Marie Darling received master's degree in American Culture Studies from Washington University, where she also completed an undergraduate degree in English in 2007. Ten chapbooks of her work have been published, among them "Fevers and Clocks" (March Street Press, 2006), "The Traffic in Women" (Dancing Girl Press, 2006), "Night Music" (BlazeVox Books, 2008), and "Strange Gospels" (Maverick Duck Press, 2009), which was selected for the "New Voices" feature in Ploughshares Magazine. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in The Boston Review, The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, Gargoyle, The Colorado Review, New Letters, and other journals. She currently studies philosophy at the University of Missouri, St. Louis and hopes to pursue a doctorate in English Literature.