From London with Love

March 20, 2010

Click above for an NPR interview with David Rose, creator of the LRB's personal ads column.

Spring has officially arrived, and if you choose to believe the hype, love is in the air.  Truth be told, however, the springtime air is also filled with pollen, mold, bees, and countless other love-inhibiting allergens and insects.  So, if you’d rather not trust your love connection to a seasonal weather change, allow me to suggest a matchmaking option you may have missed:  the London Review of Books.

Established in 1979, the London Review of Books is best known for its highly-regarded commentary on literature, film, art, and politics from such distinguished contributors as Martin Amis, John Ashbery, Julian Barnes, Christopher Hitchens, Hilary Mantel, and Susan Sontag.  But make no mistake, the LRB isn’t all business.  When advertising director David Rose joined the magazine in 1998, he spearheaded the creation of a personal ads column to help LRB readers with “similar literary and cultural tastes get together.”  Rose envisioned “a sort of 84 Charing Cross Road endeavour, with readers providing their own versions of Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft finding love among the bookshelves.”  The ads Rose received, however, were anything but expected. 

Described as “surreal haikus of the heart,” the LRB personals are unlike any other existing lonely-hearts column.  While in a few instances they have successfully played Cupid,  most readers seem to be attracted to them as an art form celebrating brutal honesty, self-deprication, and absurd humor.  For example, feast on the following actual ads:

In a certain light I look like Robert Mitchum.  In a certain light you look like Kim Novak.  More usually I look like Shrek.  More usually you still look like Kim Novak.  Yes, you’re very unlucky.  Now pass me the Doritos and get over it.  Box no. 3917.

Love is strange – wait ‘til you see my feet.  F, 34, wide-fitting Scholl’s.  Box no. 5973.

OMG!  This magazine is the shizz.  Seriously, dudes.  Awesome!  LOL!  Classics lecturer (M, 48).  Possibly out of his depth with today’s youth.  KTHX!  Box no. 2680.

Blah, blah, whatever.  Indifferent woman.  Go ahead and write.  Box no. 3253.  Like I care.

More Grand Moff Tarkin than Darth Vader – not quite evil enough, but working at it.  M (35) WLTM gullible F to 40 with whom to annunciate ev-er-y syllable whilst taking over the un-i-verse.  Join me in my Tooting Death Star for canapés, intimidating silences, and perfect posture. Box no. 2306.

Like Dave Eggers, only better.  Man, 41.  Better than Dave Eggers.  Box no. 9442.

So whether you’re looking for love, a laugh, or a little of both, don’t miss the seductively strange world of the LRB personal ads.  You can find them both bi-monthly on our 3rd floor magazine racks or in a pair of Rose-edited collections titled They Call Me Naughty Lola (2006) and Sexually, I’m More of a Switzerland (2010) [Hint: Select “Search All Libraries” to locate books].  There may be many paths to love this spring, but how else will you snag this catch?

M, 46.  The only item you’ll find in my fridge is soup.  Forty litres of the stuff.  Beat that.  Box no. 7524.

Beat that, indeed.

Russell J.


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