Tuesday, October 13, 2009

British Bibliophiliacs -- destroyed lives

While debating with myself about whether to resubscribe to the London Review of Books I ran across an interesting article in the current issue – at least the first part of it was interesting. I sought to see if I could reference it online but before finding the correct site ran across http://www.bookpatrol.net/2009/08/have-books-destroyed-your-life-too.html. This article is entitled, “Have Books Destroyed your life, too?”

It begins with the plight of book lovers: We’d rather be reading than almost anything else, but, the author tells us, bibliophiles, even the erudite sort that subscribe to the London Review of Books, need companionship too. The article quotes some of the ads appearing in the “Personals” section of the LROB. Here are a few:

"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."

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

"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."

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

"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."

"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."

Surely, not, I thought and (never inclined to take anyone else’s word for anything) opened my current copy to the “Personals” sections,” and found

If you can and do, talk for hours and hours about your love of elderflower kombucha, refuse to eat anything containing wheat, endlessly refer to your travels to India at dinner parties, correct other people’s pronunciation at every opportunity and insist on naming your children (all four of them, born in rapid succession) after members of the Bloomsbury Set, are 46, cold and sexually hostile, your either my PhD supervisor or my ex-wife. Good day to you both. The rest of you can try saying something nice to box no. 19/02.”

I soon realized this was a ritual these pansophic readers must engage in before qualifying as someone some other bibliophile might want to meet. Thus, when some lady (under 34) reads and ad --Like every picaro, I’ve suffered the degradations of an apparently infinite exile with resilience, but sometimes I wonder if this bathroom will ever be fully tiled. Rugged bachelor with roughish charm (think Rico Dredd on a penal colony made from grout) seeks literary fangirl to 34. Box no. 18/01” – she must first of all not be put off by the bathroom humor (which would say something in itself). Then she must evaluate his cleverness and decide whether she is intrigued. I didn’t know who Rico Dredd was; so I looked him up in Wikipedia. He appears to be a grotesque cartoon character. Why describing oneself as a Rico Dredd look-alike might attract any female escapes me, but then I am American and not British,

And I still haven’t decided whether to resubscribe to the LROB.

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