Bastard, Complete and Utter

I was alerted to this funny story on Late Night Live. When the London Review of Books began taking personal ads, the content was quirkily British – as for instance in the ad from which I took the heading. “”Bastard. Complete and utter. Whatever you do, don’t reply – you’ll only regret it. Man, 38.”   Apparently that ad was a huge success generating lots of inquiries.   Now there’s a book based on the column full of all sorts of nonsense.

Conversation on Late Night Live turned to the contrast between the self selling of the Americans in New York Literary Mag personal columns compared to the Brits where self deprecation was de rigueur and to say you have a good sense of humour is usually a sign of the opposite – so you have to demonstrate it in the ad.   Anyway, it was a fun peep inside the madness of the Brits.   The podcast can be down loaded for a few more days here.   And I found an Oz review of the book here.

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Andrew Norton
17 years ago

The Age also wrote this up last month, which I blogged on at the time.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
17 years ago

A similar thought struck me this week when I attended a lunchtime ‘networking’ seminar hosted by one of those boilerplate motivational speakers who blathered on about techniques for making a good first impression.

It was the usual motherhood stuff about firm handshakes, smiles, polished shoes and expensive suits. And it got me thinking how the great British-derived Australian tradition of self-deprecation and laconic humour is gradually being drained out of us by American sales culture.

This just doesn’t apply to business. You see it in the social world as well. Everyone’s frantically out there ‘selling’ themselves- and all in the same way. In business, the cheesy “can-do” rhetoric is now positively gag-inducing. In society, everyone man, woman and their dogs are selling themselves as “fun-loving risk-takers with a wicked sense of humour”.

To me, it’s yet another symbol of how our entire lives are being taken over by market economics. Time to reclaim the commons. That’s probably why that ad in the London Review of Books resonated as it did.

Peter Fuller
17 years ago

Mr. Denmore,
I’m very much with your sentiments, especially the second paragraph of your post.
My speculation is that this has a lot to do with the rise of a consultant’s culture, where people are constantly “selling” themselves, although it’s certainly becoming more true within organisations also. Under these circumstances, self-deprecation of the p***-taking kind is suicidal.
Joanna Murray-Smith remarked on this phenomenon, when she returned to Melbourne after living in New York for around three years (I think this was early-mid 1990s).

17 years ago

I’m generally with you too there Mr D.

Although I’ve often found Americans to be much entertained by good old Australian sardonic self-deprecation.

Whenever I’ve been asked in the States “And what do you do?” I’d usually reply;
“Oh the usual. Sleep in late, drink and smoke too much, eat fatty foods, gamble, fornicate and take the Lord’s name in vain.”

Which reminds me. I’ve always wanted to take out a personal in the NYRB that read:
“Multimillionaire SWM with the looks of a greek god, wise, witty, well-travelled and well-read, sensitive yet down to earth not seeking anyone. Just wanted to gloat.”

Oh and speaking of seminrs and such talkfests, how come you weren’t at the BRW Innovation Summit yesterday Nick? We could have had a good chat about keyless cars and Lord Acton.

17 years ago

“The example of the keyless car is telling is it not?”

Yes indeed, although not as funny as the Lord Acton quote about rowing.