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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New York Review of Books: no other personal ads compare

Reason number one to subscribe to the New York Review of Books: the personals, which hide out on the last two pages but deserve to be read first.

Examples, all taken from a single recent issue:
Pleasure loving writer and intellectual; dark hair, nice slender shape. Academic with no time for the academic hooey; immoderately literary, unexpectedly sexy. Ardent, if unsophisticated, observer of rivers, trees, and tides.
As a friend pointed out when we were reading these, there are more semicolons in the New York Review of Books personals than balls in a gay bar.

Then there's this stunner:

Scholar-adventurer, 60, former revolutionary, published author, fit, polyglot, lives half in Africa, half in Europe, married, seeks long term mistress or full second wife in complete agreement with first (an African academic). Requirements: 30-45, independent, adventurous, witty. Strong preference for dark lady (BLACK/ARAB/LATINA).
I'm speechless. After this personals ad, writing poetry is barbaric.

Finally, just after "SMART AND BEAUTIFUL. Yet unequivocally cute.", there is:
BRIGHT, BEAUTIFUL. Passionate, intellectual. Slender, adventurous, fun--full of happy surprises and delightful unexpected contrasts. Quietly confident with upbeat spirit and true heart. People person par excellence, anthropologist at heart. Cultured, sophisticated, yet down to earth--humanitarian, international change agent.
As my wife Kate points out, who doesn't want an international change agent full of happy surprises? Who is, I add, an anthropologist at heart, unlike all you superficial anthropologists.

She's not done, either:
...drawn to Positano, Lake Sevan, Kyoto, MoMA, Bilbao, Guggenheim. Loves film, theater, NGOs, papadums, fresh lichees....
More from Kate: "This woman sounds like she was born from that stuff white people love website." After all, that website is basically just a list of topics in The NYRB and The New Yorker.

My favorite run of adverb-adjective pairings, however, is the following:
sexually active, psychologically stable, politically informed, not religious or "spiritual."

But the gem among gems is this one. Which word is not like the others?
soft-spoken, widow, spontaneous, and easy-going.
I hope she finds someone looking for an easy-going widow. Smart, easy-going widows everywhere truly deserve love, and for all my laughing I'm glad there's an cloyingly intellectual classifieds page where they can announce themselves.

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Blogger Meg on Wed Jun 25, 01:14:00 PM:
The first one sounds like Alice to me.
Anonymous Anonymous on Wed Jun 25, 05:47:00 PM:
I have never heard Alice express an interest in tides, except those metaphorical tides of ideas that sweep over societies from time to time. And coming from Albuquerque, she might be a little river-challenged.
Blogger StevanPierce on Wed Jun 25, 06:00:00 PM:
The comment on the first personals listing was great; it had me smiling from ear to ear for quite some time!
Blogger Ben on Wed Jun 25, 06:03:00 PM:
I'm pretty sure Alice doesn't give a rat's ass about tides. It's like with tides, God basically buried the lede so far down that there isn't one.
Anonymous Anonymous on Wed Jun 25, 06:07:00 PM:
I recently read Jane Juska's A Round-Heeled Woman , a memoir of dating adventures sparked by placing a personal ad in the NYRB... the really incredible thing about these ads is the author claims the cost was something like $4.50 per word, in 1995!
Blogger Alice on Wed Jun 25, 06:31:00 PM:
You caught me. I am unsophisticated in my ardor for tides, so unsophisticated that I didn't know those feelings existed. Thanks, NYRB, for revealing my future self.

The Juska book is interesting and sometimes overwhelmingly sad for her honesty and ambivalence about the project. The chapter about her work teaching writing in a Bay Area prison is a very good digression that's not related to the NYRB thing.
Blogger michael pulsford on Wed Jun 25, 06:48:00 PM:
Have you ever read the personals in the London Review of Books? Excellence abounds. Here's one from the current issue:

You can have the key to my heart! I’ll swap it for the combination to your gym locker. Yoga nazi (F, 43) plans on whipping you (dumpy, bland, moccasin-wearing M to 50) into shape with 18-week programme of sit-ups, circuits and emotionally-draining discussions about how pretty you really think I am.
box no. 13/06
Blogger michael pulsford on Wed Jun 25, 07:00:00 PM:
Or (last one, i promise),

Massive-breasted heiress, 38, seeks witty Nobel-awarded intellectual beef-cake gardener-chef-poet with stonking pecs. Like me, you are dynamic, hilarious, serious, ironic, passionate, practical, affectionate, kind, funny, have most of your own legs, and are startled to find yourself still cruising the aisles of the Lurve Bazaar. Unlike me, you don’t exist. Am I right? If so, will consider any M who can make conversation, sense, a living, friends, four cooked meals, hot love and me laugh. Box no. 07/01
Anonymous Anonymous on Wed Jun 25, 07:43:00 PM:
I agree that the LRB has the best ads; the zeugma in that second one is just about the hottest thing I've ever seen in a personal ad. Yowza.
Blogger Ben on Wed Jun 25, 10:41:00 PM:
Wow, I agree, those LRB classifiers just sparkle. I didn't think a zeugma could make you hot and bothered, because I didn't know what one was. So I looked it up, reread the ad, and now I know exactly what you mean.
Anonymous Anonymous on Wed Jun 25, 11:21:00 PM:
The LRB has published a book of its critically-claimed personals, and is now building on its success with a volume two.
Anonymous Anonymous on Thu Jun 26, 02:25:00 PM:
Hi Alice,

I was happy to come across your site today. Looks great!