Jonathan Franzen Is First Living American Novelist on the Cover of Time Magazine in a Decade

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08/12/2010 4:13 PM |

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Jonathan Franzen, who every several years publishes a long, accessibly well-written novel about American families living through modern times, will be on the cover of next week’s issue of Time Magazine, the first living American novelist to make the cover of the newsweekly since Steven King, in 2000.

Really? Not Philip Roth, or Dave Eggers, at any point over the past decade?

It’s not exactly as if a writer crossing over into social significance is a Halley’s Comet type of occurrence; one would think there would have been at least one week, over the past ten years, when say Jeff Eugenides or Marilynne Robinson was at least as big a deal as, like, the brain function of animals, the subject of this week’s cover story.

The profile, by Time‘s lead book critic Lev Grossman, sets up Franzen as an anxious member of a disappearing species, the novelist as major figure in society at large, as if trying to convince us that that’s why no American novelist of the past ten years has been adjudged as significant as Jewel. Time—an obsolete digest with a consistently retrograde political and cultural outlook, now a frantically pandering magazine clinging to relevance based solely on its historical cachet—hasn’t reflected the decline of literacy, it’s contributed to it.