“The London Review of Books has been dedicated to carrying on the tradition of the English essay. In this respect, it is not very different from one of the great 19th-century periodicals. It gives its contributors the space and freedom to develop their ideas at length and in depth.”  This is the published description of a gift I received last autumn from my brother. 

Whilst appreciating his thought of the subscription, I wondered at the time why he did this, but over the past 6 months, I have thoroughly enjoyed the myriad of book selections and essays that have been highlighted in the Review.  A very good gift indeed. This morning I was trolling through the latest issue and came across a section at the back of it that had a series of adverts.  I have no idea why I never noticed this section before, but there it was so I kept reading.  As my ‘bucket’ still has some things in it that relate to travel, I skipped past the “Specialist Booksellers,” the “Out-of-Print Books,” the “Readers Requests” and even the “Secretarial Services” and zeroed in on “Holidays.”  I thought it would be interesting to see what the holiday options were that might seem tempting to me. 

‘Pottery in Southern France.  Short courses from May with Raku firing.”  Sorry, I have already done my pottery time, so that one didn’t attract my attention too much. 

“Sicily, Cefalu, delightful historic town.  Two room flat, town centre, extraordinary view overlooking sea.”  Hey, I overlook the sea now, and according to my trendy map, it is the same sea.  No thanks.

“Pollensa Mallorca, charming secluded spacious cottage to let.”  I live in Mallorca now so even the thought of going on holiday to the other side of the island did seem a bit ludicrous.

“Gozo, the hidden gem of the Mediterranean with cheap flights from the U.K.  Luxury apartment with pool.”   Gozo must be hidden pretty well as I have never even heard of it.  I will pass on that one too.

I did manage to go through the entire list, but all the adverts seem to have the same usage of pimply-hyperboles trying to let out their properties to somebody who wants to flee wherever they currently live for a while.  I, on the other hand, am quite content to be where I live.  I was about to fold up the Review and look at what else came in the post, but then my eyes drifted over to the next column of adverts.  These were labelled ‘Personals,’ and after reading them, I just knew that I had to share them with you. 

“I’ve spent my adult life fabricating reciprocal feelings from others and I don’t intend to stop now, nor at any other London Review Bookshop even I’m summarily ejected from.  Yes, once the history section had emptied and we were left alone his voice said, ‘I’m not interested,’ but his eyes very clearly stated ‘please follow me home and observe me from the shrubs in the park opposite until squirrels start to burrow into your legs, believing you to be a tree.’  Woman, 43.  Reading between the lines even when the lines aren’t actually there.  Don’t pretend you don’t love me.  Box no. 06/08.”   

The next one was even more curious.

“As it happens, 11:34a.m two weeks next Friday is the first day of the rest of my life.  Nuclear physicist (M, 40) on the brink of time-travel breakthrough.  Write now to box no. 07/11 but be aware that by the time I reply to you will be 98 whereas I will have aged just 12 hours.  You may have a good-looking granddaughter by then though.  Give her my number and tell her to look me up.” 

Some of the adverts did seem rather intense, but some were dead-straight to the point (whatever point the writer was attempting to make).

This personal ad is the product of an entire evening spent eating acid.  Man, 63.  Box no. 06/04.”

Then there was this one.  “The low resolution personal ad.  When viewed from a distance it looks amazing, but up close it's pretty poor.  Man, 35, Gwent.  Box no. 07/02.”

 And then there was this man who didn’t mess about.  “Everyone in this column has an agenda.  Not me.  Man, 41.  Box no. 06/13.”

This one must have been written by someone with very high expectations.  “There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to make love to all the women I want to make love to, so I’m going to start with you, nubile 21-years old choreographer and tantric masseuse, preferably French or able to adopt a French accent or not talk at all.  Must know how to spoon-feed.  Man, 78. Box 06/14.”

But this is the advert that should win an award…for something.  “The rumours are true!  A scintillating love monkey does read the London Review of Books and currently has an opening in his life for a delicious lust vixen with whom to super-charge the static on his real nylon sheets.  This advert is the recruitment process, and guess what, you just got the job (home-owning women only, 20 – 65, verifiable income, full credit history, no pets, no smokers, some knowledge of pulmonary medical procedures a distinct advantage).  Man, 68.  By reading this advert this far you agree to its terms and conditions and acknowledge it to be a legally binding contract.  No loons.  Box no. 06/05.”  No loons?

For the past half-year, I have been reading the first thirty or forty pages of the London Review of Books, believing that it was a good way to increase my scope of learning.  But now, after having finally taken a look at the last pages, I think that I have now found an entirely new form of entertainment…can’t wait until the next issue arrives.


my brother's wonderful gift



a good advert for Sol y Mar



a local market advert



advertising non-vegetarian selections



desperately looking for...water



the end of the day


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copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, James B. Rieley