ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
If you were to pick up the current issue of the London Review of Books, you could wade through a 5,000-word article on the new Shanghai. Or you could go straight to the personal ads, and you'd find one that reads in its entirety -
Unidentified Man #1: Your Christmas booking's now taken. Pathetic man, 37.
BLOCK: Pathetic man is not alone, far from it. The personals - or lonely hearts ads - of the London Review of Books are a teeming collection of the pathetic, the downtrodden and the ever hopeful.
Unidentified Man #2: Shy, ugly man, fond of extended periods of self pity, middle aged, flatulent and overweight, seeks the impossible.
Unidentified Woman #1: Eager to please woman, 36, seeks domineering man to take advantage of her flagging confidence. Tell me I'm pretty, then watch me cling.
BLOCK: Well, those ads and many, many more have now been compiled in a book titled “They Call Me Naughty Lola.” It's edited by David Rose, who is the advertising director of the London Review of Books.
And David Rose, I understand we have you to thank for these ads appearing at all in the first place?
Mr. DAVID ROSE (London Review of Books): Yeah. It's a bit of a cross to bear, really. I started in 1998, but it was also sort of very altruistic idea that I had, a very naïve idea that I'd be getting people with very similar literary tastes, people who like Jane Austin or Thomas Hardy. But no, they would always just seem to me very, very silly.
BLOCK: And your readership constantly surprises you, I guess?
Mr. ROSE: It did, initially, but now it just sends me into despair on Monday mornings.
BLOCK: You know, it's interesting, because if I think about personal ads here, it will be, you know, shapely red head likes fine dining and walks on the beach. And you have none of that.
Mr. ROSE: Yeah. That's right. I think the British are uniquely hopeless in their quest for love, certainly the intellectual elements of the U.K. Perhaps, they're too embarrassed to have the American pitch. In America, for example, the pitch is in the New York Review of Books. You know, they're incredibly positive, very, very upbeat, and we've never had that in the L.O.B.
Unidentified Man #3: Bald, fat, short and ugly male, 53, seeks shortsighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite.
Mr. ROSE: I think that there are certain things they take for granted. Being readers of that magazine, there'd be no reason for them to say, I really enjoy reading the literature and things like that. So instead, they just leap straight to the absurd.
BLOCK: Absurd, and there's really - there's no unflattering detail too small in these ads, really is there?
Mr. ROSE: That's right. They'd just go straightforward. This one, he's one of my favorites.
Most vegetarians complain about missing the taste of bacon. Not me. I complain about my liver disease and (unintelligible). Man, 40.
So, you know, it's charming in a way, sort of pathetic. And you know, someone get responses, it's interesting.
BLOCK: Well, you know, there is the pathetic group and there is the whole other strain, which is sort of belligerent and arrogant.
Unidentified Man #4: Bastard. Complete and utter. Whatever you do, don't reply. You'll only regret it.
Unidentified Woman #2: Blah, blah. Whatever. Indifferent woman. Go ahead and write. Box number 3253. Like I care.
Unidentified Man #5: Unashamed, triumphalist male for the past 46 years. Will I bore you? Probably. Do I care? Probably not.
BLOCK: What do you think these people are trying to say?
Mr. ROSE: It's difficult, isn't it? I mean, I guess the question is are all these people for real? You know, they are for real because they're paying money to place them, so I think very definitely, they do want to look for a mate. But yeah, they play the game. The stakes are so low that in a way, they can pass it off if it doesn't work. They can say, well, I was just having a bit of a joke, it was just a bit of fun. But, you know, I think a lot of them are certainly serious in their intention to get a mate.
BLOCK: When these ads come in to you, is there a boom time for the lonely heart ad?
Mr. ROSE: Absolutely, Monday mornings. There's a sea of people who've written adverts over the weekend, and you can almost hear the chink of wine bottles in the background as these things are being written. And you know, that you get a sense of they've sat there out of a Saturday evening and thought, never again, I will never again sit here out of a Saturday evening on my own when I should be out dancing. And they drink a couple of glasses of wine and then they decide to write their ad. And it is very endearing. It's pathetic. It's, you know, it's a very endearing, painful sight, I think.
BLOCK: I like some of the ones that anticipate a response that they think they're going get.
Unidentified Woman #3: Attention male London Review of Books readers. Greetings, earthling. I have come to infest your puny body with legions of my spawn, is no way to begin a reply. Female, 36, suspicious of any men declaring themselves to be in possession of a great sense of humor.
Mr. ROSE: That's, you know, that's one of my favorite ads though, sort of a you know who you are, and you got a sense they have placed lonely hearts before them. They've never been too impressed with the response that they've had. And you know, we had one recently. It was a woman who was insisting that she didn't want a man who named his genitals after German chancellors. And you got to wonder about the history behind that sort of thing.
BLOCK: She had that one blind date too many, I think?
Mr. ROSE: I would think so. I would certainly expect so.
BLOCK: Have you done any follow through to figure out, you know, has anything come of any of these pathetic, downtrodden -
Mr. ROSE: Well, we never really use to hear, or what we'd hear from people who haven't got responses and weren't happy, they'd phone in and say, well, I placed an ad with you and only got one reply. But we didn't tend to hear from people who have placed ads and had successful relationships from it. But when we started researching the book, we put an ad in the paper, saying if you had any degree of success, you know, whatever level, let us know.
And I was amazed, actually, the amounts of people that had been married through the column. And one poor woman, who would place her adverts, met her partner and married her, got divorced and subsequently came back and placed a second ad.
BLOCK: Hope springs eternal.
Mr. ROSE: Absolutely right. I would never in a million years say it's a fantastically successful column to advertise in, but we had our fair share.
Unidentified Woman #4: 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 tires of your Beamer. Let that serve as a warning. Now then, risotto?
Unidentified Man #6: I like my women the way I like my kabab. 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.
BLOCK: I wonder if you were, and I understand you're happily married, so we don't need to worry about this. But if you were to compose your own personal ads for yourself, give it a shot.
Mr. ROSE: Well, it's tricky. I've always said it's, you know, people think it's quite easy to compose a lonely heart ad, and it isn't. It's impossible to condense yourself into 30 words, you know. But one of the easiest ways to do it is to get a friend or someone you know to write it for you. So I asked my wife, if you were my friend rather than my wife, what would you put? And her idea was well, doesn't smell as much as you might think for someone with such a fat neck, and still has a little bit of money left on one of his credit cards, not quite as flatulent as you'd expect. It's about as good as I've ever got.
BLOCK: Been married a long time, have you Mr. Rose?
Mr. ROSE: Far too long. Seventeen years, that's a hell of a long time.
BLOCK: David Rose, thanks very much.
Mr. ROSE: My pleasure.
BLOCK: David Rose, editor of the book, “They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal ads from the London Review of Books.” The title, as you may imagine, is taken from an ad that reads -
Unidentified Man #6: They call me Naughty Lola. Run of the mill, beardy physicist. Male, 46.
BLOCK: And you can read many, many more ads from the book at our Web site, NPR.org.
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