Slaughterhouse 90210: Where high meets low
Slaugterhouse 90210, a tumblr blog and column at Details, takes images from pop culture and captions them, hysterically, with literary quotes. A picture of Crockett (Don Johnson) and Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) from "Miami Vice" is accompanied by Milan Kundera: "The only relationship that can make both partners happy is one in which sentimentality has no place and neither partner makes any claim on the life and freedom of the other" ("The Unbearable Lightness of Being"). And so on.
Perhaps the image above would be captioned, "Laboring through a world every day more stultified, which expected salvation in codes and governments, ever more willing to settle for suburban narratives and diminished payoffs -- what were the chances of finding anyone else seeking to transcend that, and not even particularly aware of it?" (Thomas Pynchon, "Against the Day"). But that's just me, and I don't hold a candle to Maris Kreizman. She's the 31-year-old New Yorker who is the true genius behind Slaughterhouse 90210.
Jacket Copy: Did you really start with just Vonnegut and "90210"?
Maris Kreizman: I knew I wanted to start a blog that featured my favorite literary quotes, but I thought that quotes alone would be a bit too precious or boring. And I have always been a connoisseur of crappy TV. So I figured what better way to indulge my guilty pleasures than by pairing them with more high-minded fare?
Once I had the idea, I needed to come up with the perfect name to convey that high/low juxtaposition. Fortunately, my co-workers are very skilled at wordplay. Some rejected blog names: Third Rock From the Sun Also Rises, How I Met Your Motherless Brooklyn, My So-Called Life of Pi. Once I finally settled on the name, the tagline came naturally. And I do happen to use a lot of Vonnegut and "90210" on the blog, so it fits.
JC: Do you usually begin with the literary quote or with a photo?
MK: It depends. I keep a list of shows and characters I eventually want to feature, and I'll keep them in mind when scanning for quotes. I am still trying to find the perfect quote that just screams "Charles in Charge." I think I should look into Marilynne Robinson's "Housekeeping" for that.
Meanwhile, sometimes I come across a great book passage, and I spend hours searching Google Images to try to find the characters that embody it. Like, I knew there was a Miranda July quote I wanted to use that was about people who date outside their own size groups. It took a few tries (Jim & Pam, Carrie & Mr. Big) before I settled on a more fanciful interpretation: Kermit and Miss Piggy.
JC: Do you find yourself running on a theme – say, several pictures from "Diff’rent Strokes" or a series of quotes from Tolstoy?
MK: I try my best not to duplicate shows or authors within a single week. However, some shows have such great casts and so much subtext that they lend themselves to frequent postings: "Mad Men," "Freaks & Geeks" and "Arrested Development" are a few of my go-tos. I'm also really influenced by the books I'm currently reading. When I read Kate Christensen's "The Great Man" I wanted to quote every single sentence because each and every character description was so spot-on. I think I limited myself to three.
JC: Where do you find the quotes – do you have books of them, or do they pop into your head, or something else?
MK: I have a little secret: Good Reads. Good Reads has a section of users' favorite quotes, and you can search all quotes by key word and by theme. It ends up being much more current and fresh than your standard Bartlett's. When I wanted to use a photo of Tim Gunn, I was able to search for the term "elegant" and find a bunch of quotes that applied. The winner was a Louisa May Alcott quote that captured Gunn to a T. (Another confession: I haven't read every book I quote -- I've read about half of them. I just bought a copy of Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" because I figured that I'd quoted so much of it that it was time to actually read the whole thing!)
JC: What kind of reactions have you gotten? Have you found that matching up literature with TV (and movies) leaves anyone baffled?
MK: The feedback has been generally positive. It's been great to see how many book worms there are who also have a soft spot for pop culture. I think the bafflement really only comes when people can't immediately recognize the TV show in the post. My father, for instance, never really gets my "One Tree Hill" references.
JC: When you were in high school, what did you do more: read books or watch TV? Did you ever read books WHILE watching TV?
MK: I did A LOT of both. I still do. And I'm proud to say that Brenda Walsh and Jerry Seinfeld and Alex P. Keaton informed my way of thinking just as much as Sylvia Plath or Margaret Atwood did.
JC: Is there anything that you’d not lampoon?
MK: Probably not -- watch out, Fox News hosts. ...
But many of my posts aren't meant to lampoon -- they're more like tributes. For instance, my very first post was a photo of Logan and Veronica from "Veronica Mars," whom I paired with a quote from Elizabeth McCracken's "The Giant's House." It was just a pure appreciation of my favorite TV characters and my favorite book.
I'm still looking for the perfect quote by Elisa Albert to pair with a scene from "Six Feet Under." Elisa was the first author whose works I acquired when I was an editor at Free Press, and I think she and Claire Fischer are soul sisters in terms of their ability to find humor in dark places. I'm glad my blog allows me to show my appreciation for some of my favorite sharp-tongued women.
Photo: "Friends," Season 1, 1994-95. Credit: Warner Bros.