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Creepy Or Clever, Ads Offer Adventures In Voyeurism

Long before we mastered the 140-character thought on Twitter, there was the personal ad, where paying by the word encourages concentrated brevity in the romantic resume. In his new book, Sexually, I'm More of a Switzerland, author David Rose compiles personal ads from the London Review of Books.

Reading the collection is like taking a voyeuristic adventure inside the clever, charming — and sometimes creepy — hearts of lonely wits:

I scrimshawed this advert from the tusk of a walrus. Now make love to me. Pathetic man, 49.

Woman, 36, would love to meet man to 40 who doesn't try to high-five her after sex. You know who you are.

There are some common themes running through the ads of this collection: ads with the line, "you know who you are"; advertisers billing themselves as pathetic men; ads that reference the advertiser's physical afflictions; and ads written by seemingly psychotic women.

Rose particularly likes the "you know who you are" ads.

"They've advertised before, or they've met these readers before and they've had bad experiences, and they're kind of putting that out there — 'You should not apply — you know who you are,' " he tells NPR's Melissa Block. "I love those ones. I think they're my favorites."

Rose sees these ads as small vignettes about the people who write them. "You really get an absolute snapshot of a person's life with those things," he says.

Rose says the English can be awkward when it comes to personal ads — unlike Americans, Rose says, who have no qualms about pointing out their positive qualities. The English are more low-key in personal ads, he says.

"There's very much a Monty Python feel to some of these things, I think," says Rose, who wrote the earlier collection They Call Me Naughty Lola. "That very British intellectual way of being very, very serious, and yet you look below the table, and these people are wearing stockings and high-heels."

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