Nerve: Literate Smut
Despite the misleading subtitle of this impressive if uneven anthology, smut is not Nerve's specialty. The 35 pieces reprinted here from the year-old, sex-obsessed webzine range from an article by Meredith F. Small on the habits of the Congolese bonobo ape to Debra Boxer's memoir of a 28-year-old virgin and Jocelyn Elders's arguments in favor of masturbation. This said, if Nerve can establish a lasting specialty, it will probably not be reportage, opinion or the neatly packaged thought pieces (the reflections of a male prostitute, of a nude stripper) that make up the bulk of this selection and could have appeared in any number of more or less mainstream magazines. Where Nerve distinguishes itself is in more eccentric forms of essay (like Lisa Carver's ""Some of My Best Friends Are Sensualists"" and Poppy Z. Brite's ""Would You?"") and in sophisticated storytelling. The best so far: Catherine Texier's artfully immediate, confessional diary ""A War Journal""; Courtney Eldridge's jeu d'esprit ""Anonymous""; and an excerpt from John Hawkes's 1978 novel The Passion Artist, titled ""But She Was Not Mirabelle."" Only the last qualifies as erotica (or smut, if all good erotica is smut). It shows not only the editors' discernment but also their good sense in reprinting hard-to-find works, whether from Penthouse, Playboy or that ivory tower of 1980s high theory, Semiotext(e). 35 b&w photos. Editor, Lauren Marino; agent, Owen Laster; $25,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.) FYI: You can read Nerve at www.nerve.com.