In 1968, the short-fiction collection In the Heart of the Heart of the Country--which contains five stories all originally published in various literary journals--followed Gass's debut novel, Omensetter's Luck, in 1966. The book added to the growing critical attention to Gass's character-centered (as opposed to plot-centered) stories that explored the very nature of memory and consciousness. As with Omensetter's Luck, the five stories in In the Heart of the Heart of the Country are all set in the rural Midwest and they push the boundaries of narrative toward a state of "metafiction"--a term that Gass coined and a genre he helped establish.

The William H. Gass Papers contain drafts of all the stories of In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, from the earliest fragments of the original versions to the galley proofs of the book. The draft for the story "Icicles," included here, shows the many holograph corrections included in all these drafts, making them prime manuscripts for the study of the creative process and the evolution of literary works. Four published reviews are featured here, and two audio recordings which include segments of Gass reading from In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.