Cheap Thrills

     Which one sounds like a better date?
     “Truly stunning with intelligence, wit, honesty and smokin’ hot allure. Sparkles with natural charm – combines caring generosity with devil-may-care – strong but tender and very sexy. New Yorker, cosmopolitan spirit, French heart and soul – bilingual French/English. Slender, eye-catching figure (think Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Aniston). … Always willing to go and do: Cannes, London, movies, museums …”
     And so on.
     Or: “Attractive F, 32, seeks M, of a not too dissimilar age, who smells nice, dresses well & is good at sex. But must not be a cock.”
     One is a personal ad from the New York Review of Books. The other is from the London Review of Books.
     Guess which is which?
     The English have a way with words, don’t they? Whereas New Yorkers take themselves a bit too seriously, wouldn’t you say?
     I subscribe to both mags because I’m cheap. Because I once subscribed to another magazine, both book reviews sent me postcards offering great deals. So I took them.
     When I let the subscriptions expire, they send me another postcard: “Have You Forgotten Something?” they say. Then they ask for half of my life’s savings. I throw the postcards away and two weeks later they come crawling back with another cheap offer, which I take.
     There’s no question that the New York Review offers more for the money. It’s bigger, it reviews books first, it has more political reporting – and it’s insufferable.
     I prefer the London Review – and not just for the personals.
     Here’s a selection from a London Review article on the Royal Bank of Scotland, in which we are asked to find the sentence that was not in its annual report: “RBS is a responsible company. We carry out rigorous research so that we can be confident we know the issues that are most important to our stakeholders and we take practical steps to respond to what they tell us. Then occasionally, we blow all that shit off, fire up some crystal meth, and throw money around with such crazed abandon that it helps destroy the public finances of the world’s fifth biggest economy.”
     You’ll never see writing like that in the New York Review. The NY Review is Too Damn Important For That.
     The worst articles in the NY Review are about fiction. You’d think novelists, and people who write about novelists, could have a little fun once in a while. But no, they have to write Pretentious Crap. Occasionally you’ll see a review of a novel that’s not full of Pretentious Crap. But mostly not.
     The NY Review’s fiction reviews remind me of its personal ads. The people in the personal ads seem to believe that no one could live up to their standards except, on the best day they ever lived, themselves. Maybe.
     The New York fiction reviewers give me the idea that a fellow like me should not be allowed to read those novels. Not until I get that degree from the Sorbonne.
     Londoners sound like much nicer people. Their writing is better because they don’t do back flips with half gainers trying to impress me – in the reviews or the personals.
     Here’s two more ads.
     “MWM, 51, Successful professional … There’s something missing in my life – the fun and excitement of getting to know someone of the opposite sex. I’ve been married a long time – and, unfortunately, there’s not much fun and excitement left in it. And so I’ve decided to place this ad …” This ad goes on for 19 more lines.
     This guy could have saved himself some lineage by writing, “Well-off prick wants to cheat on his wife. How about it?” But no. He has to go on and on and on …
     Compare it with this one: “Short ugly bald bloke, 32, seeks Scandinavian model (F) due to marginal grasp on reality. No time-wasters or photos of Volvos.”
     Guess which ad is from which?
     Some of the London personal ads are so concise they’re scary. I’m thinking of the one that says, in its entirety, “Jocasta, 54, elegant,” with an email. Jocasta, of course, was Oedipus’ mother.
     I think I’ll pass on that one.
     One guy in London wrote his personal ad in Latin. I can’t think of a better way to scare off the wrong kind of girl. Except maybe writing it in Greek.

%d bloggers like this: