This selection of fiction by many of America's best writers, each coupled with a distinguished critic's response, is designed to defy the chronological secondariness of critical interpretation. During the creation of this book the majority of the contributions, chosen by the writers themselves, were as yet unpublished, providing an unmediated encounter between author and critic. Every reader extends what editors, authors, and critics have begun by adding to the imaginary space in which all texts may be woven together. This process serves as metaphor for the changing nature of any latter-day encounter with one's own literary tradition. The interfacing of texts not only illuminates the fiction, and the relationship of fiction to critics, but also informs our conceptions of text, criticism, and fiction itself.