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 risquÇ 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 Neil 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.