Chuck Klosterman Calls Jonathan Franzen the Most (the Only) Important Living Novelist in America
There are at least four ways an author can become semi-important: He (or she) can have massive commercial success. He can be adored and elevated by critics. He can craft “social epics” that contextualize modernity and force op-ed writers to reevaluate What This All Means. He can even become a celebrity in and of himself, which means that whatever he chooses to write becomes meaningful solely because he is the person who wrote it. There are many, many writers who fulfill one or more of these criteria. However, only Jonathan Franzen hits for the cycle. Only Franzen does all four, and he does them all to the highest possible degree. This is why Franzen is the most important living fiction writer in America, and — if viewed from a distance — perhaps the only important one.