Look at the lineup of authors in the new anthology "Telling Tales" (Picador, $14), and you'll find yourself wondering what its linking theme can possibly be. But as editor Nadine...

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Look at the lineup of authors in the new anthology “Telling Tales” (Picador, $14), and you’ll find yourself wondering what its linking theme can possibly be.

But as editor Nadine Gordimer explains in her introduction, there is no linking theme. Instead, there’s a worthy cause.

“Musicians have given their talents to jazz, pop, and classical concerts for the benefit of the 40 million worldwide men, women, and children infected with HIV/AIDS,” she writes. The authors in the anthology decided that they too wanted to “fight against this disease from which no country, no individual, is safely isolated.”

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The stories aren’t about HIV/AIDS, although some of them — Gabriel García Márquez’s “Death Constant Beyond Love,” John Updike’s “The Journey to the Dead” — clearly have mortality on their minds. But other tales here, including Hanif Kureishi’s “A Meeting, At Last” (about an adulterer meeting his lover’s husband) and Arthur Miller’s “Bulldog” (about puppy care — and first sex), focus on life at its most unruly.

All those involved in the project donated their services. All proceeds go to the Treatment Action Campaign (www.tac.org.za), a nonprofit AIDS-prevention organization in hard-hit South Africa. The book’s contributors include five Nobel laureates, and the rest of the lineup — including Chinua Achebe, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Susan Sontag — isn’t too shabby either.

Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times book critic