What did you feel when you watched Jessica Paré, playing Megan Draper—the Bardot-meets-Birkin wife of television’s favorite hegemonic male Don Draper—sing Zou Bisou Bisou to her husband on this season’s premier of Mad Men? In the days following the episode, the Internet exploded with reactions. The most poignant, by far, was proffered by Maris Kreizman, author of the blog Slaughterhouse 90210, who paired a spread leg screenshot of the new Mrs. Draper with a quote from David Foster Wallace’s first novel, The Broom of the System, a postmodern fiction with a protagonist consumed by the thought that she may only be a character in a story:
“Modern party-dance is simply writhing to suggestive music. It is ridiculous, silly to watch and excruciatingly embarrassing to perform. It is ridiculous, and yet absolutely everyone does it, so that it is the person who does not want to do the ridiculous thing who feels out of place and uncomfortable and self-conscious.”
That is what Maris Kreizman does. For three years now, the literary Brooklynite has been pairing quotes from books with pictures from TV on her popular tumblr, Slaughterhouse 90210. The words, pulled from classics or whatever contemporary fiction Kreizman’s read recently, serve to reveal deeper meaning within the show, sometimes ironically but usually in earnest (that scene really was all about Don). Kreizman teaches us things about our favourite programs, things we might have known or felt but didn’t have the words for until she borrowed them from the literary canon for us.
On David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Agent Dale Cooper is totally, as Alan Hollinghurst wrote in The Stranger’s Child, “…a hot little bundle of repressed emotions and ideas—perhaps this was what made the thought of sex with him… almost experimentally exciting.” On the hipster condition, as exemplified by the characters of IFC’s Portlandia: “But nothing disturbs the feeling of specialness like the presence of other human beings feeling identically special.” That’s Jonathan Franzen writing in Freedom.
What Slaughterhouse 90210 proves, above all, is that equal sentiments can exist in disparate forms. High, low, who cares anymore? What matters is the meaning we glean from our mediated experiences. If there’s one Slaughterhouse post that embodies the blog’s philosophy, it’s Lisa Simpson pictured reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and joined by pulp novelist Raymond Chandler writing, “I merely say that all reading for pleasure is escape, whether it be Greek, mathematics, astronomy, Benedetto Croce, or The Diary of the Forgotten Man. To say otherwise is to be an intellectual snob, and a juvenile at the art of living.” Storytelling is connecting. We narrate and we listen, we act and we watch, all so we can share subjectivities and rub up against each other’s consciousness for a bit.
Maris Kreizman is a media junkie. She says she consumes about 80% of the shows referenced on Slaughterhouse and 50% of the books. You can feel the love she has for her stories, be it Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Julian Barnes’s 2011 Man Booker Prize winning novel A Sense of an Ending. She feels the love too; her tumblr is an enormous success. Maris recently celebrated Slaughterhouse 90210’s three year anniversary with a packed reading and party at the Housing Works bookstore in Soho, New York. Here, she shares some words on the origins of Slaughterhouse and to enumerate her favorites, from favorite novels and television characters to new tumblrs and other internet diversions. Consume!