Alter's books on biblical narrative and poetics (ed., The Literary Guide to the Bible, 1987; The Art of Biblical Narrative, 1981) are bench-mark works in contemporary biblical lit-crit, and Alter has seen the field grow up around him into something fertile, even crowded. So it isn't altogether surprising here to see Alter, in the first of these diverse essays, swat and gesture at and shoo- away some of his colleagues (though it seems a rather too defensive defense). More interesting concerns go forth in essays on the Bible as literature (``The remaining, powerful peculiarity of the Bible is that it is a literature steeped in the quirkiness and imperfection of the human that is ultimately oriented toward a horizon beyond the human''); on the literal, about which Alter can see ``no real contradiction between literal and figurative readings of the Bible''; on allusion; and on Harold Bloom's Book of J thesis, which receives a scolding for being based, Alter argues, on a scandalously inaccurate translation of the text's Hebrew by David Rosenberg. As always with Alter (and as it should be, no doubt), he is on more solid ground when specific--carefully and thoroughly examining biblical excerpts--than he is when responding to less tangible theories. Still, a good companion volume to Alter's more focused studies.