journalism | December 14, 2010

Lev Grossman Writes Two of TIME Magazine's Most Talked About Stories of 2010

If you are an important person and Lev Grossman is writing a profile on you, there’s actually a pretty good chance you’ll end up on the cover of TIME magazine. In fact, your very appearance on the cover — and all the freighted significance that carries — may itself become news. It’s happened twice in recent months. First was Lev’s much publicized story on Jonathan Franzen, in which he declared Franzen “The Great American Novelist.” Today, with the announcement of Mark Zuckerberg as 2010’s Person of the Year, Lev has once again written the story that seemingly half the Internet is reading.

Conveniently, these two articles showcase Lev’s twin strengths as both the magazine’s chief book critic and one of its tech writers. He also speaks, quite brilliantly in fact, on both of these subjects. And, of course, Lev is also an accomplished novelist — author of the New York Times bestseller and post-Harry Potter go-to The Magicians. But we’ll save that for another post. On to the business at hand:

Lev, on Franzen:

The trend in fiction over the past decade has been toward specialization: the closeup, the miniature, the microcosm. After the literary megafauna of the 1990s — like David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Don DeLillo’s Underworld — the novels of the aughts embraced quirkiness and uniqueness. They zoomed deep in, exploring subcultures, individual voices, specific ethnic communities. Franzen skipped that trend. He remains a devotee of the wide shot, the all-embracing, way-we-live-now novel.

Lev, on Zuckerberg:

[Facebook] started out as a lark, a diversion, but it has turned into something real, something that has changed the way human beings relate to one another on a species-wide scale. We are now running our social lives through a for-profit network that, on paper at least, has made Zuckerberg a billionaire six times over.

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