A generally strained anthology, with several memorable individual essays. Poet and translator Rosenberg (Testimony, 1989; The Book of J, edited by Harold Bloom) has once again assembled a compendium of writers' essays on a single topic, in this case personal reflections on the Bible, often going back to childhood. Most of the writers are from Christian backgrounds, though most now approach the tradition with a healthy skepticism, and a few, like Catherine Texier, with ``a fresh rage.'' The most intriguing contributions demonstrate how some writers have felt compelled to employ biblical models in their adult writing. Valerie Sayers, for instance, observing the matriarch Rebecca's bitterness and conniving strength, casts her in a contemporary novel. Several other creative essays trace common narrative threads through two seemingly disparate biblical books; Kathleen Norris uses both Jeremiah and Revelation to demonstrate how the poetry of apocalyptic literature is lost when the Bible is no longer read aloud. And slightly off the beaten track, Terry Tempest Williams discusses her reconciliation with her Utah childhood and the Book of Mormon in a convincing rite-of-passage essay. But all too many of the pieces fail to illuminate the biblical text: John Barth makes a confusing foray into the physics of creation; Elizabeth Hardwick's essay on the life of Jesus is afflicted with the very banality she fears will taint any attempt to write one's thoughts on the much-interpreted Bible. Readers are also advised to skip Rosenberg's pompous introduction, whose basic premise is that the Bible has been monopolized for too long by tweedy academics and needs at last to be understood on a personal level. The book's contrived division into three untitled parts leaves the reader wondering about Rosenberg's careless organization. With this anthology topping out at 560 pages, Rosenberg could have been more discriminating in his selections and their presentation.