Fans of trash TV and treasured literature convene to celebrate 'Slaughterhouse 90210's third anniversary
1:38 pm Mar. 21, 2012
The concept of Maris Kreizman's tumblr, Slaughterhouse 90210, which celebrated its third anniversary last night at the Housing Works bookstore, is fairly simple: Kreizman pairs screen grabs of television shows—from the acclaimed ("Mad Men") to the ironically beloved ("Jersey Shore")—with quotes from great literary works.
The effects are wide-ranging, from the purely descriptive—a self-assured Joan Hollaway appears above a line from Zadie Smith's White Teeth: "She wore her sexuality with an older woman's ease, and not like an awkward purse, never knowing how to hold it, where to hang it, or when to just put it down"—to the revelatory—a perky Chris Traeger in a Sherlock Holmes costume (from the Halloween episode of "Parks and Recreation") appears above an ominous caption from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: "Some people's affability is more deadly than the violence of coarser souls."
The event Tuesday evening—by coincidence the same day that Kreizman's site gained its 50,000th follower—included readings by Elisa Albert, Alexander Chee, Dave Hill, Miles Klee and Rachel Syme, all picked by Kreizman herself: "writers [she] admire[s]" who, yes, "are into TV too." The first hundred drinks were free, courtesy of Tumblr; there was a spread of cheese, grapes, nuts, and olives—provided, Kreizman revealed, by her parents, who couldn't stand the thought of alcohol being served without snacks—and by ten to seven, fully ten minutes before the event was billed to start, the bookstore's ground floor was already nearing capacity.
The appeal of Slaughterhouse 90210 isn't hard to divine: Kreizman's deft mashup of high and low culture speaks to the eroding distinction between the two, and the increasingly common desire to think critically about so-called guilty pleasures (television especially). The resonance of the juxtaposition of an image from Brett Michaels dating show "Rock of Love" and a quote from W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil is deeply satisfying; an inside joke you can get twice.
The crowd—mostly young and smartly dressed: glasses, blazers, and brightly colored cardigans were plentiful; Kreizman herself wore a tailored dress in a lovely, muted pattern (Rothko by way of Anthropologie)—greeted Kreizman (pictured at left) with thunderous applause when she took to the stage.
"This is like a birthday party and a wedding all rolled into one," she said, grinning widely. She explained the blog's humble origins—a friend's comment that she seemed "kind of bored at work"—and its governing ethos—"That you could read 52 books a year and still be really invested in who won the Real World Road Rules Challenge."
She guided the audience through some choice slides from the blog, projected on the wall behind her: an image of "Twin Peaks'"perennially chipper, maniacally wholesome FBI Agent Dale Cooper was paired with a suggestive quote from Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child ("He was a hot little bundle of repressed emotions and ideas—perhaps this was what made the thought of sex with him . . . almost experimentally exciting."); an image of Louis C.K. flipping himself off in the mirror appeared above a deeply apposite quote from Jonathan Franzen's Freedom ("There is, after all, a kind of happiness in unhappiness, if it's the right unhappiness.") got a big laugh.
"I think Jonathan Franzen would think Louis is a dick," Kreizman commented. "And I think Louis would think Jonathan Franzen is a dick. So it kind of works well together." The simultaneous pathos and hilarity of an image of Kim Kardashian crying, from the episode of "Kourtney and Kim Take New York" in which Kim's marriage ends, was underscored by a quote from Lady Chatterley's Lover: "If you could only tell them that living and spending isn't the same thing! But it's no good. If only they were educated to live instead of earn and spend, they could manage very happily."
Miles Klee read an excerpt from his debut novel, Ivyland, that involved a flung jellyfish. Rachel Syme, who took the stage after Klee, recapped the end of The Great Gatsby as if it were a television show, dropping a plethora of well-chosen pop culture references into her snappy monologue, which managed to both be faithful to its literary source and tonally dead-on: Jordan Baker, in Syme’s words, was the "Liz Lemon of Suffolk County, trying to find love in a hopeless place with Nick"; Tom was "like Dylan, awful to Kelly and Brenda at the same time, and he [was] not pulling it off."
"I hope they run that show into the ground!" Kreizman beamed after Syme's performance, before introducing Elisa Albert, who read from her novel The Book of Dahlia, about a young woman with a difficult family, a powerfully acerbic wit, and an inoperable brain tumor. Alexander Chee read from a new short story ("for good luck," he said; he planned to send it out to publications the next day), a mordant, witty, and then suddenly poignant tale about a recently single gay man embarking on "some of the most important casual sex of his life."
Writer, actor, and comedian Dave Hill (pictured at right), in a velvet blazer, pale purple dress shirt, and pastel yellow tie, read last—and thank goodness; his winning reading would have been a tough act to follow. He opened with an anecdote, about his TV show, "The King of Miami," which was cancelled in a particularly insulting way.
"The network went off the air but they went out of their way to tell me, even if we didn't go off the air, just so you know, you were cancelled," he said before reading two snippets from his forthcoming book, Tasteful Nudes, the first about a naked dinner cruise he reported on (not replete, as he had imagined it would be, with "totally butt-naked superfoxes"), the second about the death of his mother. Both were, however improbable, hilarious.
The winner of the TV-lit mashup contest that had been held on Twitter during the event was announced—“Married with Midnight’s Children” beat out “West Wings of the Dove” and “The Fresh Prince of Tides,” among others—and as the crowd thinned, Kreizman made the rounds, cheerily posing for pictures, hugging friends, chatting with admirers, every bit the blushing bride and the giddy birthday girl rolled into one.
Perhaps this is the more fundamental draw of Kreizman's blog: like its founder it brims, above all, with enthusiasm (where condescension could spoil the whole conceit). Slaughterhouse 90210 seems to truly delight in putting "A Simple Life" in dialogue with Ray Bradbury, at the expense of neither. As Kreizman said about Snooki, one of her "favorites," earlier in the evening: "She could be a symbol of evil or she could be a symbol of the apocalypse, but she is having a really good time, and I admire that."
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