Interviews with 15 novelists of the 1970s--plus a dialogue between John Barth and John Hawkes, and a debate between William Gass and John Gardner--as assembled by two English professors. ""What characterizes the fiction of our writers,"" says the introduction, ""is syncretism--a healthy ecology for art, one that supplies open space for excess and protection for miniatures, supports differences without the threat of domination by some 'fittest,' and encourages hybrid species."" Unsurprisingly, then, the ensuing chat tends to be highly academic--and neither LeClair nor McCaffery, in their short introductions to the interviews, tempers enthusiasm with discrimination. Still, students and fans may be interested to hear the comments here--on structure, metaphor, language, ""metafiction,"" working habits, specific works, influences, autobiographical elements, critics, morals, politics, and (inevitably) illusion-and-reality . . . from Doctorow, DeLillo, Toni Morrison, John Irving, or such more experimental favorites as Raymond Federman and Ronald Sukenick. The most infectiously voluble speaker is Stanley Elkin (defending ""excess""), the least forthcoming is Donald Barthelme, the most eloquent is William Gass (on metaphor and junk food). And while the questions can sometimes flirt with unintentional ivory-tower parody, some of the writers are eager to talk about practical matters--like Robert Coover, naming names re his publishing troubles. Of chiefly academic interest and orientation, but occasional bits of illumination for flesh-and-blood readers too.