LONDON (Reuters) – If your romantic fancy leans toward serial embezzlers, self-harming flautists or beardy physicists known as Naughty Lola then you should advertise for a mate in Europe’s biggest-selling literary review magazine.
The venerable London Review of Books has published a compendium of the weirdest and funniest advertisements from the eccentric readers who write to its personals column seeking love, sex or simply correspondence with like-minded people.
The book, “They Call Me Naughty Lola,” shows that Britons, long seen as cold fish compared to the torrid Latin lovers of Italy and France, are not all stiff-upper lip.
“Woman, 32, needful of the finer things in life seeks stinking rich bloke, 80-100,” one ad says. “Must be willing to fibrillate his ventricles when he becomes tiresome or bankrupt or both. Also interesting thirtysomethings for illicit, immoral affair to be conducted concurrently with the above.”
In a big departure from other personal ads with their coded GSOH (good sense of humor) and promises of good looks and fun, Review readers flaunt their foibles and parade their oddities in a mild-mannered display of that special British madness.
“Medication free after all these years!,” says another, apparently from a psychiatric ward. “Join me (anxious, overweight, self-harming flautist, F, 34) for congratulatory drink (or seven) in side ward of nation’s finest.”
In their search for a soul-mate, men trumpet their flatulence, baldness and kleptomaniac tendencies, sometimes with alarming frankness.
“Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53 seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite.”
One offers to make yours a truly family Christmas.
“Obnoxious, drunkard uncle for hire (62). Belches the national anthem in three octaves, scratches inappropriately and is seemingly never satisfied by your very best efforts. Is dinner ready yet – and if not, why not? December will be magic again at Box no. 5610.”
“IN A MENTAL BREAKDOWN SORT OF WAY”
The personals column is the creation of London Review of Books advertising director David Rose (M, 32, married) who also edited “They Call Me Naughty Lola.”
Surrounded by a colorful mix of contributors, subscribers and London eccentrics at a party to launch the book, Rose said he started the personals column in 1998, imagining a genuine lonely hearts section for the sensitive and erudite.
Then his first submission arrived.
“67-year-old disaffiliated flaneur picking my toothless way through the urban sprawl, self-destructive, sliding toward pathos, jacked up on Viagra and on the lookout for a contortionist who plays the trumpet.”
Rose held out for serious submissions but to no avail. Eventually he succumbed to the column becoming a notice board for the strange, hilarious and downright bizarre.
“It became very clear very quickly that it was going to be very silly,” he told Reuters in an interview at the book launch.
He suspects that many ads are written for laughs, but has had calls from indignant advertisers, angry because they’ve paid 80 pence ($1.53) a word and haven’t received a single response.
“And I’m like that’s because you spent the whole time talking about your mother and your wooden leg,” he said.
Taken together, the ads provide a curious kaleidoscopic view of Britain, its capital and the unusual lives of its denizens.
One commuter desperately seeking someone writes:
“You were reading the BBC in-house magazine on the Jubilee Line (12 November). I was coughing hot tea through my nostrils. Surely you can’t have forgotten? Write now to smitten, weak-kneed, severely burned, bumbling F (32, but normally I look younger). I’ll be quite a catch when my top lip has healed. And this brace isn’t forever.”
The ads have resulted in marriages, children, at least one divorce and countless liaisons.
But love among the literati can also be elusive.
Susan Wolfe, (F, 60, but looks much younger) says she wrote an “embarrassing number of ads,” but has now stopped.
So far she’s had responses from a serial killer in a U.S. prison, an “infection-free” pensioner and a date with a cross-dresser who took her shopping to find himself a gold lame miniskirt and a union jack thong before lunch at a rundown Chinese restaurant on her 60th birthday.
“I lost my sense of humor,” she said.