Jonathan Franzen is on the cover of Time Magazine for his new novel Freedom. Time is thin gruel for news now but a novelist making it on the cover of any magazine is something to note. Rock stars, politicians, tyrants, terrorists...they have all been there but few writers. Franzen looks like a writer with a stubble and glasses and some kind of strange toning that makes it look like he just might be animated.
That Time decided to put a novelist on the front and declared him the next...what? Voice of all mankind, his generation...a strange bird still at large during the Internet...a literary writer, is very encouraging to all writers. Sure, everyone wants to be on the cover of a magazine but writers get such little play that it is good someone in the editorial offices of Time took a flyer on that art of old...the fiction writer who might just put substance before money. It did stand out as something different.
The dentists office I discovered this magazine in was plastered in tabloid fair and wannabe People magazine ripoffs. I was alone in my reading of Franzen's life as a bird watcher, his lifestyle between New York and San Diego something to envy, and of course his new novel. They even broke out writers into three categories, literary guard, contemporary novelists (Franzen and a few others) and then the up and coming young Turks. The decisions on these writers is not necessarily books sales which makes it more interesting. Time previewed Franzen on the cover as saying he is not a rich writer. Or the richest. This alone would buck the trend of magazine covers. Superlatives aside, richest in America is usually game over. Most famous for whatever reason including quitting your airline job might be cause for getting on a cover. But to write a literary novel that does well and might sum up our time...well, that usually is found in Publishers Weekly or the New York Times book review.
So maybe it is the fact that Time magazine is on life support they decided to throw one for the gipper. Maybe Franzen really is a breed alone that deserves to be on the cover of Time. He did dish Oprah and sold even more books because of it. But then again, maybe someone, occasionally, puts art over commerce, and we see a man with a stubble and glasses, looking like, well, a writer.