The question needs to be asked, as all we see in the literary field from high to low is a retreat from reality. From metafiction and magical realism to hobbits, wizards, zombies, and vampires, writers seem determined to run away from the world as it is. Once, literature confronted, explained, and tried to correct that world.
I have to give props then, to some extent, to Franzen for still writing traditional novels. He also partially escapes the utter mediocrity of most of those plying the narrow realism trade. He stands above them, in that he has a second-rate intelligence, while other writers are third-rate thinkers-- when they're able to think at all. Just my own opinion, of course.