"Have Books Destroyed Your Life, Too?"

We book folk are often socially inept or, if ept, we'd rather be reading: excepting the occasional clunker, a close relationship with books is very satisfying to the single/divorced and persnickety printslut.

But even the most cerebrally occupied must bow to the will of  the flesh and the desire for human company. Thus the appearance of personal ads in the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books.

The nature of the ads in each of these august publications is, however, decidedly different, and reveals the character of the British and American booklovers who place them. Without putting too fine a point on it, the Brits are much more direct, often brutally honest, eccentric and, yes, wittier than we are on this side of the Atlantic (book) Shelf.

"My animal passions would satisfy any woman, if only it weren't for the filibustering of this damned colon. And the chafing of these infernal hospital sheets.  Write now to M, 83, for ward visiting hours and list of approved solids."
"You'll regret replying to this ad - its owner smells of peas."

"Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite."

"Sinister-looking man with a face only a mother would love."

"Love is strange - wait 'til you see my feet."

"I am the literary event of 2007, or at least the most entertaining drunk on my ward."

"Blah, blah, whatever. Indifferent woman. Go ahead and write."

"Disreputable, mean, ruthless, perverse, hateful wretch. But what do divorce lawyers know?"

"Get out of my space and quit touching. Otherwise friendly F, 42, wants to get to know you. Box 4213 (please include full CV, medical records, five recent bank statements, photo and proof of signature)."

"I've divorced better men than you. And worn more expensive shoes than these. So don't think placing this ad is the biggest come-down I've ever had to make. Sensitive F, 34."

"5 September is the anniversary of my divorce. So too are 17 November, 12 January, 8 March and 21 June. Summer is usually much quieter - take advantage of the sunshine and lawyers' vacation periods by dating impatient, money-grubbing F, 39."

"I butchered three volumes of Seamus Heaney to produce this ad."

"Meet the new me. Like the old one only less nice after three ads without any sexual intercourse. 42 year old fruitcake (F)."

"Every time I read these ads I cringe with the knowledge that they are all me. And some are you."

"Today just isn't my day. Neither was yesterday. Tomorrow will be worse. I'm putting all my money on Thursday week. Also my ex-wife's car and my children's tuition fees for 2005-08. Compulsive gambler (M, 53) seeks either love or sound racing tips. Or both. Though, strictly speaking, the latter generally results in the former."

"Last time I had this much fun, I was on forty tablets a day. It's all downhill from here, so reply to edgy woman, 36, before the good times come to an abrupt halt and the prescriptions finally dry up."

"So many men to chose from, so few vitamin supplements. Arthritic F, 73."

"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."

"Tell me your dreams. I'll laugh at them all and prove how unlikely you are to achieve them."

"List your ten favourite albums. I don't want to compare notes, I just want to know if there's anything worth keeping when we finally break up."

"I have known only shame. Then, last week, I experienced surprise."

The above (as well as this post's headline) appear in They Call Me Naughty Lola (Scribner, 2006), an inspired collection of personal ads from the London Review of Books amassed by LTR editor, David Rose.

Contrast these with the personals found in the latest online edition of the New York Review of Books.

We are so lame here, so earnest, so sincere, so sappy, so boring, and anxious with a whiff of desperation. With far too many U.S. personals, it's all sharing romantic walks on the beach, sunsets, picnics in the park, drives up the coast with the top down, a glass of wine in front of the fireplace. There's a distinct lack of imagination exhibited, an overabundance of banality and idealism, and a lot of wishful thinking. It's a wonder anyone in the U.S. finds a viable partner through the personals. The Brits don't seem to care about optimizing first impressions, marketing themselves and creating positive brand awareness: This is who I am, take it or leave it but I will never bore you! You can make book on it.

And what a delightful book They Call Me Naughty Lola is, social anthropology at its entertaining best. Put it on your list of approved solids.