WE OFTEN REFER TO THE PUBLISHING world as an environment, and recently, as I discussed the state of the industry with a colleague, I realized how apt the metaphor is. Why is it, I asked, that some types of literature flourish while others fade or perish? The answer seems to be that the healthiest genres spring out of the richest and least-spoiled breeding grounds.
Breeding grounds are not particularly glamorous places: marshy wetlands, dank rain forests, remote and dusty plains. Yet they produce some of the most vigorous and beautiful of earth's species. By the same token, the places where literature is incubated are often dark, humble, and homely, far from the chic world of blockbusters and spectacular seven-figure ...