One of my reading pleasures is the London Review of Books, courtesy of the subscription my brother gives me every year as my Christmas present. It’s my short-cut, cheat’s way of learning something interesting about things I wouldn’t normally read about, without having to actually read any of the books. The reviews are not like the normal book reviews you find in newspapers or magazines. They are often very long essays on the topic, written by experts in that field. The book is often a relatively small part of the review.
Anyway, despite all the erudite writing and fascinating ideas that are discussed in it, the page I always turn to first is the inside back cover, to read the personal ads. They are the best personal adverts I have ever read. They aren’t all trying to be witty and clever; some of them are very straight forward:
Friendly, lonely at times, divorcée, loves books, music, films, art and culture. Needs TLC from a man in similar situation. 60ish.
Occasional lover sought by smart sexy attractive woman.
Some of them are kind of sad:
A sensible advert for a change. Kindly working-class intellectual, M, 60, slightly shy and badly hurt. WLTM a fine woman for companionship, sweetness, food, book, smiles and peace.
Or sad in a slightly disturbing way:
M, 48, reaching the end of a marriage of convenience, clings to the belief that there still may be one beautiful woman left who values kindness above all else. Few demands other than intimacy in the beginning, in exchange for a generous monthly allowance and the opportunity to travel.
Some adopt a clever counter-cultural, liberal political style, with a hint of self-deprecation:
The last day of the miners’ strike, my socialism gave way to socialising. Hip, stylish, ever-educated Hitchcock heroine (I wish. In reality, a thirtysomething London academic. But still hip etc) who confusingly mixes up her cultural metaphors, seeks seriously clever, socially-confident, left-leaning, genuinely unattached M, 35–50, with whom to disagree about art, architecture, music, books, film.
Others have more than a hint of self-deprecation:
I’m everything you ever want in a woman. Assuming you’re into fat 47-year-old moody bitches who really don’t enjoy the morning. Stop talking and pour the Bloody Marys.
Some are drily witty:
The finest mind in the academic world conceived this ad, but it was his secretary who took two and a half hours out of her day to collate his angst-ridden ramblings, phone the LRB and pay for it with her own credit card. He’s basically looking for an affair with a twentysomething idiot tart who needs good grades. I’m looking for a better job, decent pension package and a man to 50 who’s great in bed and doesn’t make condescending comments about every damn book I read. Man, 57. Or his secretary, 43.
But the best are completely off the wall:
‘Don’t worry about overeating, you’ve got plenty enough on your plate as it is.’ Excruciating knuckle biter of a gaffe-prone dinner guest (M, 31), seeks not easily offended lady for patient exchanges about anything other than weight, age, height, dress or popular culture. Mature correspondents welcome, age before…never mind.
I am Mr Right! You are Miss Distinct Possibility. Your parents are Mr and Mrs Obscenely Rich. Your Uncle is Mr Expert Tax Lawyer. Your cousin is Ms Spare Apartment on a Caribbean Hideaway that She Rarely Uses. Your brother is Mr Can Fix You Up A Fake Passport for a Small Fee. Man, 51.
You can see why I read them first, before the serious stuff.