No, I’m not talking about a secret ‘other’ life I indulge in through the dank streets of Kings Cross under cover of darkness. This is a new book released by the London Review of Books and it’s a collection of the best personal ads they’ve featured in their infamous lonely hearts column.

The cover of the LBR collection

The personal ads themselves are some of the best examples of the lonely heart and the self-deprecating, ironic English attitude combined. For example:

Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite.

The personal ads were launched in 1998 by David Rose, the LBR’s advertising director. Rose is now the power behind this book collecting the best of them. The lonely hearts column that Rose created has been recognised for some time now for its absurd and strangely erudite contributors.

The collection takes its name from this particular ad:

They call me naughty Lola. Run-of-the-mill beardy physicist (M, 46).

One of my personal favourites captures not only that classically English ability to self-deprecate, but also a touch of panic we all feel as we outgrow ‘youth’:

OMG! This magazine is the shizz. Seriously, dudes. Awesome! LOL! Classics lecturer, M, 48, possibly out of his depth with today’s youth.

David Rose claims that, in conceiving his particular brand of lonely hearts column, that he was tired of the usual “incredibly positive” ads and sought instead ads that were “rarely inhibited by positive thinking”. Rose also seems to think that honesty to the point of self-deprecation is good “because it’s tiring trying to figure out what other people find attractive”. Let others graciously correct your own heavily depressed idea of yourself. Or not, as the case may be. This IT nerd is doing himself no favours with his honesty:

I have created an Excel spreadsheet to document all the lovers I’ve had in my lifetime; the duration of each relationship and how much each affair cost me in financial terms. I’d like you to be cell A2.

According to Rose, the personals have led to friendships, marriages, at least one birth and a divorce after a marriage. A lot of people seem to consider the large majority of the ads completely honest, rather than the strange exercise in creative writing that they appear to be. Judge for yourself. Here’s a selection of others from the collection:

I’ve divorced better men than you. And worn more expensive shoes than these. So don’t think placing this ad is the biggest comedown I’ve ever had to make. Sensitive F, 34.

List your ten favourite albums… I just want to know if there’s anything worth keeping when we finally break up. Practical, forward thinking man, 35.

I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out and covered in too much tahini. Before long I’ll have discarded you on the pavement of life, but until then you’re the perfect complement to a perfect evening. Man, 32, rarely produces winning metaphors.

My ideal woman is a man. Sorry, mother.

Your buying me dinner doesn’t mean I’ll have sex with you. I probably will have sex with you, though. Honesty not an issue with opportunistic male, 38.

Not everyone appearing in this column is a deranged cross-dressing sociopath. Let me know if you find one and I’ll strangle him with my bra. Man, 56.

Stroganoff. Boysenberry. Frangipani. Words with their origins in people’s names. If your name has produced its own entry in the OED then I’ll make love to you. If it hasn’t, I probably will anyway, but I’ll only want you for your body. Man of too few distractions, 32.

Mature gentleman, 62, aged well, noble grey looks, fit and active, sound mind and unfazed by the fickle demands of modern society seeks…damn it, I have to pee again.

Slut in the kitchen, chef in the bedroom. Woman with mixed priorities, 37, seeks man who can toss a good salad.

Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth.

Certainly sounds like an entertaining read.