Yesterday, as I was leaving, my grandfather gave me last week’s copy of the New York Review of Books. I’ve never actually read the New York Review of Books before, only dug out certain articles in old issues at the library, but this morning I spread the paper out on my breakfast table to accompany my meal. My curiosity increased with the uneven paper quality, some unusually thick, some thin and glossy like the weekly, airmailed, international edition of The Guardian, which my grandfather also subscribes to. I happily read a detailed two page paraphrase of the entire plot of one of Nadime Gordimer’s recent novels over two cups of coffee and a vegemite sandwich, but found nothing else to catch my attention until I got to the personals, right at the back.
Norway obviously isn’t big enough to have personals specifically for intellectuals. I’m sure there are no exclusive dating services for graduates from Ivy League schools and a handful of other universities (they include Cambridge and Oxford, for the sake of internationality), or for art lovers, or concerned singles, who care deeply about environmental issues. I’ve never seen Norwegian ads for phone numbers to ring to talk with dominatrixes with PhDs in creative writing from Ivy League universities. Each of the more personal personals in this paper is carefully penned, and all start with sentences like “A delicate beauty. Captivating, head-turning, petite, slim, successful artist and published writer. Known for clever silly rhymes, gracious entertaining, a certain shy grace that lights up a room.” I’m convinced the whole page is an elaborate hoax, part of an immersive gaming session, perhaps. If you write to any of those email addresses, or ring any of those numbers, you’ll find yourself entrapped in a fiction spanning your life, the web and everything ever printed.