Romance via Wit

From Exchange of Letters, Wendy Cope, and several evolutionary steps ahead of Romance via Reading.

Man who is a serious novel would like to hear from a woman who is a poem

(classified advertisement, New York Review of Books)

Dear Serious Novel,

I am a terse assured lyric with impeccable rhythmic flow, some apt and original metaphors, and a music that is all my own. Some people say I am beautiful.

My vital statistics are eighteen lines, divided into three-line stanzas, with an average of four words per line.

My first husband was a cheap romance; the second was Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanac. Most of the men I meet nowadays are autobiographies, but a substantial minority are books about photography or trains.

I have always hoped for a relationship with an upmarket work of fiction. Please write and tell me more about yourself.

Yours intensely,
Song of the First Snowdrop


Dear Song of the First Snowdrop,

Many thanks for your letter. You sound like just the kind of poem I am hoping to find. I’ve always preferred short, lyrical women to the kind who go on for page after page.

I am an important 150,000 word comment on the dreams and dilemmas of twentieth-century Man. It took six years to attain my present weight and stature but all the twenty-seven publishers I have so far approached have failed to understand me. I have my share of sex and violence and a very good joke in chapter nine, but to no avail. I am sustained by the belief that I am ahead of my time.

Let’s meet as soon as possible. I am longing for you to read me from cover to cover and get to know my every word.

Yours impatiently,
Death of the Zeitgeist



  1. I like that! I just read the autobiography of a lyricist that I like (found it on the side of the road of course) and his autobiography reads just as wittily as the above selection.

    Alan Lerner was the man who wrote lyrics for “My Fair Lady”, as well as others, and he said that he had a recurring nightmare that he’d be locked in his study for three days, working. All of his friends and family would appear and ask what he’s been doing. When he replied, working, they ask what he’s got for three days of work. “I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night, and still have begged for more.” And then they put him in a home. 😛


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