Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 49 (3/24) -- Sexually, I'm More of a Switzerland edited by David Rose

Sexually, I'm More of a Switzerland -- subtitled More Personal Ads from the London Review of Books -- is the follow-up to 2006's They Call Me Naughty Lola (which I read last year and then buried a capsule review in a monthly round-up). As the subtitle explains, it complies a large number of odd, quirky, surprising, and grumpy personal ads from the London Review of Books.

Ads like this one (from p.87), for example:
What you gonna do with all that junk? All that junk inside your trunk? I'm gonna get a PhD in social Sciences and spend Saturday nights alone in Oxted. Desperate woman, 34, all too aware of the misery caused by poor decision-making processes but more than willing to share it with men who don't have high sexual expectations and enjoy any female companionship that isn't their mother (which, I'm guessing, pretty much covers most of the male readership of this magazine.) Box no. 8820.
LRB personals writers, especially the men, are inordinately fond of describing themselves in derogatory terms -- "rubbish mathematician (M, 37)," "Pathetic man, 49," "hopeless yachtsman (M, 64)," "belligerent old shit (M, 53)," "drooling, toothless sociopath (M, 57)," "bankrupted timeshare-buying moron (41)" -- perhaps in an attempt to lower expectations and perhaps just out of that automatic self-rubbishing tropism Brits have beaten into them with any decent education.

Many of the ads are quite short and imply more than they say -- and also don't have any obvious reason for any other person to have the thought "I'd like to have dinner with and/or rub my genitals against the genitals of this person" and thus reply:
  • I wrote this ad to prove I'm not gay. Man, 29. Not gay. Absolutely not. Box no. 7471.
  • I grazed my knee writing this advert. Accident prone F, 35. Box no. 4311.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this personal advert puts me firmly on the map. Box no. 8541.
  • If I wear a mask, will you call me Batman? Just asking. Box no. 0558.
And some -- again, usually male -- advertisers seem to go out of their way to drive away any potential responders, such as this gentleman:
Some men can only be loved by their own mother. Not me, I've also got Mr Snuggly Panda. Male, 36, and Mr Snuggly Panda, also 36. Box no. 9912.
But, then, a large subset of the women admit to massive personal failings as well (though they tend to have a better sense of what will bring the appropriate sex to their yards) --
This advert is about as close as I come to meaningful interaction with other adults. Woman, 51. Not good at parties but tremendous breasts. Box no. 5436.
And, of course, any sequel must reference the original:
I'm the entire third chapter from that shite book they compiled from these ads. Go figure. Man, 57. Box no. 0733.
This is, however, the kind of sequel that requires no knowledge of the original -- Sexually and Naughty Lola are each the same kind of thing, and a reader could pick up either one, in either order, and enjoy them equally well.

For anyone who enjoys wry, self-deprecating intellectual British humor, Sexually, I'm More of a Switzerland will provide a grin every page, a chortle every third, and a muffled snort approximately once a chapter. It's particularly fun to read aloud; I've been bouncing choice bits of it off The Wife for several weeks now. Don't try to read it straight through, and it will provide amusement -- and a deep satisfaction at one's own place in the world, lousy as that may be -- for weeks on end.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Richard Thompson - Ça Plane pour Moi [Live 2003]
via FoxyTunes

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