Where TV and Literature Collide: Talking to Maris Kreizman about Slaughterhouse 90210

photo courtesy of Maris Kreizman

It’s sort of perfect to imagine Maris Kreizman at the Emmys.

“I felt like a princess,” she says. “It comes a little late in life but it came. I missed junior prom but I got to go to the Emmys.”

We’re having drinks at Sugarburg, a bar surprisingly pleasant for being perched on top of the Metropolitan Avenue L/G entrance. We are supposed to be talking about her book, Slaughterhouse 90210—and we do, eventually—but I can’t help asking about the Emmys first. She went to the awards show as a guest of her boyfriend Josh Gondelman, a writer for Last Week Tonight.

“I think I like TV better than most of the people there,” Kreizman says. “I was intrigued every second.”

She describes sharing a hotel elevator with a “really sweet” Tina Fey, straight from the gym and talking to everyone. “Peter Dinklage was cool as shit,” she says—they stood in a taxi line together. She saw Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie (Jaime and Brienne from Game of Thrones) having breakfast one morning, likewise Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner (Arya and Sansa from the same show). “I thought dragons were coming to visit next.”

Kreizman is a book person: both in the sense of “loving books” as well as being an active member of New York’s literary community. Kreizman is also a person passionate about tv. She connected both interests in 2009 when she began the consistently delightful Tumblr Slaughterhouse 90210, which pairs still images from television with quotes from classic and contemporary books. That Tumblr became, this past September, a book. She had flown out for the Emmys about a week before its release.

“Someone asked if I had been to an awards show before. I said the National Book Awards and got laughed at.” Kreizman laughs too. “It was really kind of magical.”

Slaughterhouse 90210

A square hardback with a witty cover and glossy, full-color pages, Slaughterhouse 90210’s looks can be deceiving. This isn’t to say that the contents don’t match the packaging—Kreizman’s book is as colorful and clever as the exterior promises. There’s just something more there, a seriousness and poignancy that Kreizman’s juxtapositions often achieve, a mutual understanding that illuminates both the book she quotes from and the television show she pictures. Slaughterhouse 90210 can be genuinely moving.

“When I started, the blog was meant to be ‘funny haha,’” Kreizman says. “Jersey Shore was big at the time. You can pair Jersey Shore with almost any book, it’s funny. But isn’t it amazing that a 19th century Russian novelist is still relevant when you are watching MTV?”

via Slaughterhouse 90210

In time, the project became more celebratory than goofy, in part because of the rise of prestige television, but also because these combinations really did work. They spoke to both mediums. “I also ran out of dead authors,” Kreizman says. “I wanted to spotlight living ones.”

Kreizman describes herself as a “publishing refugee.” She had followed the industry’s conventional career path until the imprint where she was a book editor was sold off by its publisher. Her next job was outside of conventional publishing—it would be her least favorite. “I always thought I would be a book editor,” she says.

“I was so bored there,” she continues. “A colleague suggested Tumblr.”

Kreizman had started to notice an upswing of people posting inspirational quotes on Facebook, and when she saw a picture of Joan Holloway—it clicked. Slaughterhouse 90210 was born.

“It was the first blog I ever had,” she says. It’s now six and a half years old. “For the first four years, I posted five days a week like a job. The frequency went down as I did more things that gave me pleasure. Now it’s about one or twice a week—it’s nice to do when I really have something to say. It’s still the easiest way to recap what happened at a big pop culture event.”

“I waited a long time,” she says of her decision to write the book. It, unlike the blog, captions all of pop culture—sports, movies, politicians. She also wrote an appendix entry for each combination, which forced her to take a step back and figure out her logic. (“A lot of pairings are instant.”) Kreizman acknowledges the popularity of her Tumblr in her decision making process, but doesn’t dwell on it. “I waited until I had a big enough following and a thought-through concept,” she says.

For many Tumblr users, though, Slaughterhouse 90210 was a gateway drug onto the platform and into its still growing community of book lovers. I read Slaughterhouse 90210 well before I ever signed up for Tumblr, and was moved to even write Kreizman a fan email in 2011. (This is a true story—I have never written another blog-owner a fan letter before or since.) The local (and IRL) literary community noticed too. Housing Works started throwing annual Slaughterhouse 90210 parties in 2012, celebrating the websites third, fourth, fifth birthdays, and finally its book launch. And as a person who goes to her fair share of book parties and readings, I can say Kreizman’s are consistently among the best. It’s captivating to ask writers—as Kreizman does—to talk about their experiences with television, a form of narrative we’ve (nearly) all been raised on. So many of our formative experiences with narrative—falling into a story, being terrified by one, laughing at or with or empathizing with characters—happen with TV. Something magical, and often very funny, emerges with each writer’s consideration. (In fact, you can experience the magic yourself on Sunday, November 15, when BookCourt hosts its own Slaughterhouse 90210 event.)

“It gave me a platform and confidence,” Kreizman says. “If there’s a book I’m excited about, that’s how I express it.”

I mentioned one of her latest posts, which paired an image of Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano from My So Called Life with a pitch perfect quote from Elena Ferrante’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.

via Slaughterhouse 90210

“They are so similar,” Kreizman says of the two works. “But Nino”—the “he” referred to in Ferrante’s quote—“is much more of a Nathaniel P”—the titular character from Adelle Waldman’s 2013 novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

“At least Nino can read,” Kreizman says. I snort.

“Especially for the Tumblr, the posts about heartbreak tend to really fucking kill,” Kreizman goes on. “Claire Danes has been very important to my blog. Mad Men, too. The show is so easy to caption—I remember a critic saying that once as a negative this, but it’s of course what I do. They lay out the themes overtly. The show is concerned with what I’m concerned with.”

via Slaughterhouse 90210

“It’s become a weird kind of calling card,” she says of the blog. “I didn’t think it would be something I’d be known for. If it did, I might have named it something different.”

“I’m not crazy about Vonnegut,” she admits. The writers she does most often reach for are Lorrie Moore and Margaret Atwood. “They both tend to make general statements about humanity, statement that are often funny and sad.”

“The blog gave me the ability to have a thing that’s completely my own,” she says. “It helped me find me voice in a way that was discouraged when I was in book publishing.” Social media has since reshaped that landscape, and Kreizman has been a part of that transformation.

“The mission of the blog has changed,” she says. “I want to show that books are as relevant to the cultural conversation as TV.”

“The best moments are when people see one of my posts and say, ‘I want to read that.’”

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