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Creepy Or Clever, Ads Offer Adventures In Voyeurism

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Creepy Or Clever, Ads Offer Adventures In Voyeurism

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Creepy Or Clever, Ads Offer Adventures In Voyeurism

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And Im Melissa Block.

Long before we mastered the 140-character thought on Twitter, some of us mastered the personal ad, where paying by the word encourages concentrated brevity in the romantic resume.

Unidentified Man: I scrimshawed this advert from the tusk of a walrus. Now make love to me. Pathetic man, 49.

Unidentified Woman: Woman, 36, would love to meet man to 40 who doesnt try to high-five her after sex. You know who you are.

BLOCK: Those are two brief, yet potent personal ads from the London Review of Books. For 12 years now, David Rose has been in charge of those often hilarious lonelyheart ads. He compiled a batch in his first book, titled "They Call Me Naughty Lola."

And David Rose is back again with a second volume of personals called "Sexually, Im More of a Switzerland." The title comes from one ad included in the book, which reads in its entirety, "Sexually, Im More of a Switzerland -Female 54."

Mr. DAVID ROSE (Author, "Sexually, Im More of a Switzerland") It kind of sums it up, though, really, doesnt it? You get a real sense of that person with that ad, you know, awkward, bumbling, I'd really rather not talk about it kind of element.

BLOCK: And we never learn, you know, more than what? We dont learn, you know, more of a Switzerland than a Pakistan or more of a Switzerland than a Paraguay, we just dont know.

Mr. ROSE: Yeah, I think its kind of all that implied, you know, its full of neutrality and cold mountains to surmount, I guess. You know, I don't know what she means beyond that, but, you know, God bless her for her brevity.

BLOCK: There are some common themes running through these ads. We heard one of them just now, this you-know-who-you-are line.

Mr. ROSE: Yeah.

BLOCK: What is that?

Mr. ROSE: Yeah, it was one of the things I noticed with the first book that there's a whole class of adverts and they use this line, this tag line, you know who you are. So, theyve advertised before, or theyve met these readers before and theyve had bad experiences. And theyre kind of putting that out there - you should not reply - you know who you are. I love those ones. I think that they're amongst my favorites.

Unidentified Man: (Reading) Man, 41. Not the sharpest sandwich at the picnic.

BLOCK: And neverending supply, it seems, of pathetic men who are actually very happy to write about just how pathetic they are.

Mr. ROSE: Im kind of reluctant to strictly call them pathetic. I think these people know what theyre doing, you know, its a clever way of getting the stuff out there.

BLOCK: They seem to delight in trumpeting their physical afflictions, a lot of them.

Mr. ROSE: Theres an awful lot of skin diseases mentioned, which is probably...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSE: ...not something that you want to be attracting somebody with.

Unidentified Man: (Reading) Love me. Love my fungal skin complaint. Man, 37, charmless and flaky.

BLOCK: You think theres something particularly British about that?

Mr. ROSE: The British are full of skin disease. You have no idea. Its incredible.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: I didnt know.

Mr. ROSE: Its all the rain. It makes people more moldy. They kind of stay out in the rain a lot and then they live in very dark apartments and a mold festers on their skin. Its called English pigmentation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: I had no idea.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSE: You need to look it up. It's there somewhere, Im sure. But, yeah, they are kind of awkward and bumbling and uncomfortable and this kind of thing. And I dont think the English can do that thing that American advertisers can do. If you see ads in The New York Review of Books, for example, which is a similar demographic to the London Review, American advertisers are very used to kind of putting out there all their very, very positive aspects, but in the U.K. we cant do that.

We're desperately awkward about it. We could never say, oh, you know, Ive got a good degree or Im, you know, Im very attractive. They would play it in a very low-key manner, I think. And these ads just dont bother at all, but just say, yes, well, I live with my mum and Ive got glaucoma.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: What?

Mr. ROSE: Please make love to me. And, you know, and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSE: And who can resist that?

BLOCK: Who can? Who can? There's another theme, I think, that runs through these and its, you know, again, its not in the "I like fine dining and curling up by the fireside" theme, it's people who say exactly what they are after.

Unidentified Woman: Woman, 35, happily married until husband sponsored an African village goat in her name as a birthday gift. Would love to meet man to 40 for whom the phrase, I'd really like a pair of diamond earrings, isnt meant ironically.

BLOCK: Well, there you go.

Mr. ROSE: You really get an absolute snapshot of a persons life with those things. I think one of the best things about these ads is they present perfect little vignettes. They give you an absolute perfect picture of whats going on at a certain moment in this persons life, the tipping points or whatever. And they present it as a lonelyheart in a very, very humorous way, but nonetheless, you still get this image of a very definite moment, the peripeteia in this persons life where they've said enough.

BLOCK: And creepy and often scary women in these ads.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Woman: Did you just look at that other advert? Dont lie, I saw you. Paranoid, jealous and often scary woman, 42. Do you want this marriage to work or not? You dont know the meaning of the word love. London? So, why does your credit card receipt say Birmingham?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: I can see this woman. I think I know her.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSE: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSE: There's those - people kind of reply to these adverts and often they're surprised that they werent meant in an ironic way.

BLOCK: Who do you think is the voice behind this ad? If I wear a mask, will you call me Batman? Just asking.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSE: I dont know. I kind of thought that's some very opportunistic academic. I like the idea of a lot of these people being professors in their studies and finally, after all the years, allowed to be a little bit silly. Its nice. Theres very much a Monty Python feel to some of these things, I think. That very British intellectual way of being very, very serious and yet, you look below the table and these people are wearing stockings and high heels. You know, its great.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: And youre talking about the men.

Mr. ROSE: Absolutely.

BLOCK: Ever get tired of this? Ever bored by it?

Mr. ROSE: Absolutely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Every day?

Mr. ROSE: I clasp my head in my hands and I weep. And...

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Thats the start of a personal ad right there.

Mr. ROSE: Yeah, honestly, Ive mutated into all of these people. You know, Ive taken on their pain and their sorrow and their crazy conversation. And sometimes I just kind of wake up and, you know, I wonder where it all went wrong.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSE: I had so many ambitions as a young man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: And here you are.

Mr. ROSE: Now Im jaded, Im broken and old.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSE: Exactly like my advertisers.

BLOCK: You know, I hear the personal ad, youre writing it right now, you know. I wrote this ad while clasping my head in my hands weeping. Im jaded, broken and old.

Mr. ROSE: Yeah, please hold me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Pathetic man.

Mr. ROSE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: David Rose is the weeping, jaded editor of the personal ads for the London Review of Books, compiled in the new book "Sexually, Im More of a Switzerland." David Rose, thanks so much.

Mr. ROSE: Thank you.

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