Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: They Call Me Naughty Lola, edited by David Rose

(Full title: They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books. Edited and with an Introduction by David Rose)

Reviewed by

Published: 2006

It's about: A personal ad, for you young'ns, is like a classified ad with the goal of soliciting romance. It's the analog ancestor of online dating. Lonely Hearts Columns, as they're known in the U.K., appear in newspapers and some magazines. This book is a collection of said ads from the London Review of Books.

I thought: Generally, personal ads tend to be sweet, serious, and sometimes a little sad. Here's one from Harvard Magazine:
"Accomplished, attractive, Cambridge/NYC woman, part-time academic, good-natured, fit, allergic to superficiality, interested in meeting man of similar sort, 60's, early 70's, to explore friendship and what may come."
It's difficult and uncomfortable to try to sum up everything positive about yourself and everything you hope to find in a relationship in so few words. But They Call Me Naughty Lola isn't a collection of those kinds of ads. Here's the ad from which the title is taken:
"They call me naughty Lola. Run-of-the-mill beardy physicist (M, 46.)"
If you don't think that's funny, this book probably isn't for you. It is 150 pages of clever, bizarre, and/or untrue personals. The people who write these generally aren't taking themselves or the column very seriously. That's what I found refreshing, especially since I read it during the month ruled by Valentine's Day, a holiday characterized by sappiness on the part of people who are in relationships and bitterness and self-pity on the part of people who aren't.
In this volume the bitterness and self-pity is always self-deprecatingly humorous; you get the impression that you're laughing with the advertisers, not at them. And then there are lots of ads that are nearly 100% joke, like this one:
"When you do that voodoo that you do so well, I invoke 16th-century witchcraft laws and have you burned at the stake. No shenanigans with Quaker M, 39."
Here are a few of my favorites:
"Not all female librarians are gay and called Susan. I, however, am and would like to meet non-librarian gay women to 35 with names such as Polly, Kate or Demeter."

"I'm just a girl who can't say 'no' (or 'anaesthetist'). Lisping Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, female lecturer in politics (37) WLTM man to 40 for thome enthanted eveningth."

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf! It made me laugh! Not that that's a terribly difficult thing to do, but still. I'd recommend it.

Reading Recommendations: Since there's no story to keep track of, They Call Me Naughty Lola would make good read-aloud-in-the-car material. It's a very quick read and, obviously, would be a great pick for Valentine's Day.
Apparently there is a second collection, published about a year ago, called Sexually, I'm More of a Switzerland.

Warnings: Innuendo abounds.

Favorite excerpts:
I think this might be my favorite one of all:
"In June 2001, Laura Buxton released a balloon during her grandparents' golden-wedding anniversary celebrations in Staffordshire. She'd attached to it her name and address along with a note asking the finder to write back. Ten days later she received a reply. The balloon had been found by another Laura Buxton in Wiltshire, 140 miles away. Both Lauras were aged 10 and both had a three-year-old black Labrador, a guinea pig and a rabbit. The replies to my personal ads are of a very similar nature, always coming from people who share my name and major characteristics of my life. The only distinction is that my replies do actually come from me. It's not because I have a poor memory and respond to adverts I don't remember placing, but because I'm so damned attractive I find me irresistable. You will, too, but if you don't own a three-year-old black Labrador, a guinea pig, and a rabbit I won't reply. Man. Gorgeous man. 37. Kettering. Adorable. Yummy. Reply soon. Of course I will, you silly little pussycat."