if you came of age in the sixties, as I did, the notion of a Bible issued with the imprimatur of Grove Press may strike you as a bad joke, if not downright blasphemous. In those days of free speech and free love, Grove was known for two things: literary pornography (remember, this was before every Borders and Barnes & Noble outlet offered a generously stocked section of "erotica") and avant-garde literature, most notably the works of Samuel Beckett. (Proustian moment: do you recall the day you proudly shelled out a couple of bucks for your copy of Alain Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy?)

Today Grove is just a name in the corporate maze of Megapublishing, trying to get whatever mileage it can from its history. Hence the mild frisson fiftysomethings will experience when they walk into bookstores this Christmas season and spy a boxed set of a dozen books of the Bible—in the King James Version—published by Grove Press.

But fiftysomethings presumably aren't the primary target for these volumes, which strive to make the Bible hip (see for example a response to the series in the online magazine Salon.) The project originated in Britain, where the Pocket Canons (as they are called) were published in 1998 by Canongate Books. Each little book came with an introduction by a contemporary writer, and since many of the introducers were far from reverent, the series provoked controversy. It also sold well.

For the American edition, Grove commissioned a new set of introductions. Some of the twelve writers for this first batch—comprising six books from the Old Testament and six from the New—are Christians (Kathleen Norris, for instance, on Revelation); many are not. The books are handsomely designed, with black-and-white photos ...

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