"Is Franzen the literary world's ideal representative? Maybe not. Maybe yes. I don't think it matters. What matters is that on the cover of one of the most widely read magazines in the country, a writer is looking directly back at us, and we are being told that His. Craft. Matters. We should have no tolerance for the snipers, the agitators, the petty grievers who lament that Franzen was given this honor rather than someone else who may have been a better fit. When the day comes that writers are commonly granted the accolades and recognition they deserve, we can argue over who deserves what and why. But for now, Franzen is being lifted up for all of us. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When our culture tells us that the ignorant are to be admired, that vacuousness is the new entertainment, the battle over ebooks feels like a battle over who has to sweep the deck on the titanic. When reading and intelligence is presented as overrated or unimportant, these small quibbles seem laughable. Too few know the importance of the written word, how important letters are, how important thinkers are, how important books are.
And so here it is, in big bold letters: Great American Novelist. Whether he is comfortable with it or not, Franzen is the representative for the entirety of publishing. His cover is telling millions of people, shouting from newsstands, that writers are still the soul of our culture. That books still matter. That books still matter. And this, beyond anything, is reason to celebrate. And this, beyond anything, is a reason to be hopeful."