Sexually explicit writing is commonplace enough these days so that it's difficult to shock a sophisticated reader -- but most authors here manage to find a way. ""What is central here is sex's relationship to death,"" the editors (who are collaborating on Serpent's Tail/High Risk Books) tell us in a brief preface. Notice, if you will, that the word ""art"" is missing. Without distinguishing between fiction and memoir, the editors have arranged this volume poorly (or deliberately) so that some of its most risquÃ‰ pieces appear at the start. First-person stories of male hustlers abound, culminating in Rupert Adley's graphic S&M story, ""Meet Murder, My Angel,"" and Stewart Home's story of murder-as-performance-art, ""Frenzy of the Flesh."" Yet John Giorno, renowned for his ability to turn pornography into poem, is represented by one of his tamer pieces. Michael Blumlein's ""Bestseller,"" a serio-comic satire about a writer so impoverished he begins selling his body parts to a wealthy old man, falls somewhere between the sensitive and the repugnant. Rebecca Brown contributes an affecting story of friends sending a dying friend on vacation and pretending she'll return, but quick on its heels is a piece by Benjamin Weissman, so revolting it makes Jeffrey Dahmer seem meek. A few well-hidden gems include Gil Cuadros's fascinating story/memoir about his great-grandfather's death and the lesbian grandchild who, the family is certain, must have killed him; Suzette Partido's appealing three-pager about a Catholic schoolgirl sharing her love life's secrets every afternoon with Aunt Bee of the Andy Griffith Show; and Nell Bartlett's verbal feast, ""That's What Friends Are For,"" a conversation between a man dying of AIDS and his well-meaning father. You have to feel sorry for the few excellent writers whose work is sandwiched in among the generally lurid entries: No one would seek them out based on their presence in this collection.