The Wonderful London Review of Books Personal Ads, Curated By David Rose
DAVID Rose created a ‘love sought’ section for the London Review of Books. Rose was the organ’s advertising director when he developed the personals section in 1998. Lovelorn literary types wrote in. The very first classified ad went:
“Disaffiliated flâneur, jacked-up on Viagra and on the look-out for a contortionist trumpeter.”
I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t going to be good. There’s no way they’re going to let me run this. What an idiot I am.’ But I work on the Bowie principal—do something once and it’s a mistake; do it three times and it’s an arrangement.’ We had to let it go for a couple of issues. My attitude was ‘I’m going to print these ads because they’re the only ones I’ve got.’ They’re ridiculous and silly, but it was like, who blinks first? Are the readers going to say, ‘No I didn’t mean for you to print that ad?’ Or am I going to say ‘No, we can’t print this!’ They were consistently like that from there on in. They never altered. Never any change in the pitch or the camber. They were just ridiculous. It was like the advertisers seized on something.
You can now buy collection of the classifieds in They Call Me Naughty Lola (the ad runs: “They call me Naughty Lola. Run of the mill beardy physicist — male, 46”) and Sexually, I’m More of a Switzerland.
The ads are so good, they get plagiarised. He recalls:
I can tell you that we have had a handful of singles nights at the LRB bookstore. One night I met a guy who was very proudly pointing out the adverts that he’d written and I knew bloody well that he was lying because I’d just met the advertiser who had actually gotten married from one of the advertisements that this guy was claiming to have written.
Rose cites an example of how obscure the ads can be. If you get it, you get the writer, too.
Newly divorced man, 38, Would like to meet woman to 40 whose heroes don’t include Leslie Cole, Bill ‘Dink’ Hewit, Roger Martinez, Peter Jaconelli, Dave Man or William Corfield. Northumbria. Box no. 6362.
Nobody in the world knows who they are, and it took an awful lot of digging. I got a hold of this guy and he revealed that they were all world record holders. Leslie Cole set the world record for the fastest consumption of eels. All of them had been taken from the Guinness Book in 1971. I’m not sure how successful he was in getting a date.
Here are some more:
Tall, handsome, well-built, articulate, intelligent, sensitive, yet often grossly inaccurate man, 21. Cynics (and some cheap Brentwood psychiatrists) may say ‘pathological liar’, but I like to use creative with reality’. Join me in my 36-bedroom mansion on my Gloucestershire estate, set in 400 acres of wild-stag populated woodland. East Ham. Box no. 0620
If you think I’m going to love you—you’re right. Clingy, over-emotional and socially draining woman, 36. Once you’ve got me, you can never ever leave me. Not ever. Prone to maniacal bursts of crying, usually followed by excitable and uncontrollable laughter. Life is a roller coaster; you’ve just got to ride it, as Ronan Keating once said. Buxton. Box no. 0617.
If intense, post-fight sex scares you, I’m not the woman for you (amateur big-boned cage wrestler, 62)
I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out, and covered in too much tahini. Before long I’ll have discarded you on the pavement of life, but until then you’re the perfect complement to a perfect evening. Man, 32. Rarely produces winning metaphors.
My last seven adverts in this column were influenced by the early catalogue of Krautrock band, Paternoster. This one, however, is based entirely around the work of Gil Scott-Heron. Man, 32. Possibly the last person you want to be stood next to at a house-party you’ve been dragged along to by a friend who wants to get off with the flatmate of the guy whose birthday it is. Hey! Have you ever heard Boards of Canada? They’re amazing; I’ll burn you a CD.
To some, I am a world of temptation. To others, I’m just another cross-dressing pharmacist. Male, 41.
Tall, handsome, well-built, articulate, intelligent, sensitive, yet often grossly inaccurate man, 21. Cynics (and some cheap Brentwood psychiatrists) may say ‘pathological liar’, but I like to use ‘creative with reality’. Join me in my 36-bedroomed mansion on my Gloucestershire estate, set in 400 acres of wild-stag populated woodland.
My therapist has given me such a good rate I can afford to indulge my bouts of infidelity and still deal elegantly with my guilt. Attached but unfaithful London male, 60, seeks female counterpart. I promise an intensity of sexual joy unexpected in the LRB.
This advert is about as close as I come to meaningful interaction with other adults. Woman, 51. Not good at parties but tremendous breasts.
The complete list of my sexual conquests: 1994-1995—Anna; 1996—Julia, Alison; 1997—Italian girl at Karl’s party, Claire (Clare?), Jessica (fingered); 1998—Anna again (big mistake), receptionist at my second temp job (possibly called Helena), Becky (I was in love but she went back to her boyfriend); 1999—Jeremy’s girlfriend; 2000-01—Karolina (deported); 2002—woman at nightclub, woman at nightclub, woman at nightclub, woman at Stewart’s barbecue, Stewart (accidental coming together of groins, the three of us were naked and very, very drunk), woman at nightclub; 2003-2006—Evil Satanic Bitch Whore; 2007—the Internet. [London Review of Books]-reading women to 35—don’t pretend your relationships have been any less incongruous and unsatisfying. Write to probably the most normal guy you’ll ever see in a lonely heart advert and maybe we’ll end up friends or lovers or despising each other and wincing every time we remember our awful one-night stand or maybe we’ll get married and have children. Writing’s a good start though. Man, 31.
Shy, ugly man, fond of extended periods of self-pity, middle aged, flatulent and overweight, seeks the impossible.
Save it. Anything you’ve got to say can be said to my lawyer. But if you’re not my ex-wife, why not write to box no. 5377? I enjoy vodka, canasta, evenings in, and cold, cold revenge.
I’m no Victoria’s Secret model. Man, 62.
Sinister-looking man with a face that only a mother would love: think of an ageing Portillo with a beard and you have my better-looking twin. Sweetie at heart, though. Nice conversation, great for dimly-lit romantic meals. Better in those Welsh villages where the electricity supply can’t be guaranteed. Charitable women to 50 appreciated.
Newly divorced man, 38, Would like to meet woman to 40 whose heroes don’t include Leslie Cole, Bill ‘Dink’ Hewit, Roger Martinez, Peter Jaconelli, Dave Man or William Corfield. Northumbria.
I vacillate wildly between a number of archetypes including, but not limited to, Muriel Spark witticism-trading doyenne, Mariella Frostrup charismatic socialite, brooding, intense Marianne Faithfull visionary, and kleptomaniac Germaine Greer amateur upholsterer and ladies’ league darts champion. Woman, 43. Everything I just said was a lie. Apart from the bit about darts. And kleptomania. Great tits though.
You’re a brunette, 6’, long legs, 25-30, intelligent, articulate and drop-dead gorgeous. I, on the other hand, am 4’10”, have the looks of Herve Villechaize and carry an odour of wheat. No returns and no refunds at box no. 3321.
If you think I’m going to love you—you’re right. Clingy, over-emotional and socially draining woman, 36. Once you’ve got me, you can never ever leave me. Not ever. Prone to maniacal bursts of crying, usually followed by excitable and uncontrollable laughter. Life is a roller coaster; you’ve just got to ride it, as Ronan Keating once said. Buxton.
Just as chugging on a bottle of White Lightning on a park bench will make you nauseous and diminish the respect of your peers, yet taking just a glass of cold cider on a barmy summer evening will quench your thirst and take you back to heady days frolicking in West Country apple orchards, so it is with this ad. Man, 37. Refreshing in small sips where the delicate nuances of Somerset burst through full and flavoursome, but anything bigger and you’ll end up puking over your own shoes and smelling of wee.
Your stars for today: A pretty Cancerian, 35, will cook you a lovely meal, caress your hair softly, then squeeze every damn penny from your adulterous bank account before slashing the tyres of your Beamer. Let that serve as a warning. Now then, risotto?
List your ten favourite albums…I just want to know if there’s anything worth keeping when we finally break up. Practical, forward thinking man, 35.
I’ve got a mouth on me that can peel paint off walls, but I can always apologize.
My favourite Ben & Jerry’s is Acid-Boiled Bones of Divorce Lawyer.
Woman, 38. WLTM man to 45 who doesn’t name his genitals after German chancellors. You know who you are and, no, I don’t want to meet either Bismarck, Bethmann Hollweg, or Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, however admirable the independence he gave to secretaries of state may have been.
Most partners cite the importance of having a loved one who will listen and understand them. I’m here to rubbish this theory. F, 38.
If you respond to this ad and agree to meet me, you’ll probably want to get yourself good and drunk first. Man, 51. Good looking but rarely great with conversation. Especially if it doesn’t require me thumbing nervously through the Welsh costal tides timetable that I always carry in my wallet next to a picture of my mother (may the Lord have mercy on her sweet soul, snatched injudiciously away from us by ulcer complications on June 17th, 1987—we love you, Mum, you’re with us every single day). Box no. 9291
Some incidents in life are blacked-out for a reason. Much as I shudder to recall an incident at Dulwich in 1968 involving a goose, a penny whistle, and the local priest, so you will probably twist in the wind whenever, in years to come, you’re forced to relate a tale about how you once replied to a personal advert in a flurry of misplaced appreciation for what you regarded at the time as a heightened and sophisticated sense of irony. Man, 40. Hates geese. And priests. And penny whistles. Box no. 7793.
In February next year I will begin work in my garden on a 1:128 working scale model of the Karakumsky Canal, which stretches 1,200km from Haun-Khan to Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan. It irrigates a course of 800km and is the largest in the world. Now make love to me. Man, 53. Kettering. Box no. 5889