new_york_review_of_books.jpgYesterday, 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.

7 thoughts on “personals

  1. alex

    I first started reading NYRB when I was in college. It was a window for me into a whole world /behind/ the books I had read as a young precocious student. Along with sex, coffee, cigarettes, and Marx, the NYRB was one of those things that made me feel my future was going to be different from my past – something with its own trajectory which let me cut myself free from the pull of my small provincial town and achieve a velocity and fate that were uniquely my own.

  2. scott

    I like the idea of fictions told in personals ads — Rob Wittig, Kurt Heintz and I talked about writing such a story in the Chicago Reader once — and did actually place the first ad — I think it started out “We met briefly at the accident last Thursday at North and Division.” The project lost steam after a couple of installments though. I think it was the discipline of placing an ad each week that failed us. It was one of those projects that could be multidimensional and presented interesting contrainsts but which could also be cruel. How would you handle the responses, for instance?

  3. Jill

    A story told solely through the personals – ooh. It would be like an epistolary narrative only interspersed, and you’d not know how many people actually noticed, you know? I’m going to keep reading the personals on the assumption that they are in fact planted narratives 🙂

  4. Alex

    Isn’t this the plot of the movie ‘desperately seeking susan’ ;?)

  5. Jill

    Oh it is, isn’t it – though no, that was a film about personals, the story wasn’t IN the personals, was it?

    It’s quite a few years since I saw Desparately Seeking Susan. I remember trying to dress exactly like Madonna after watching that film. It was the eighties, right? Or am I thinking of another movie here?

  6. extrospection


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