ONCE UPON A TIME, in a realm called England, literary fiction was an obscure and blameless pursuit. It was more respectable than angelology, true, and more esteemed than the study of phosphorescent mold; but it was without question a minority-interest sphere. In 1972, I submitted my first novel: I typed it out on a second-hand Olivetti and sent it in from the sub-editorial office I shared at The Times Literary Supplement. The print run was 1,000 (and the advance was 250 pounds). It was published, and reviewed, and that was that.