Excerpts From Maris Kreizman’s ‘Slaughterhouse 90210’

Plus: Bonus slideshow not found in the book!

"The champagne was dead. So it goes."
— Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
“No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure. Happiness is a glory shining far down upon us out of Heaven. She is a divine dew which the soul, on certain of its summer mornings, feels dropping upon it from the amaranth bloom and golden fruitage of Paradise.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Villette
“Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me
“Sometimes I dislike women, I dislike us all, because of our capacity for not-thinking when it suits us; we choose not to think when we are reaching out for happiness.”
― Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
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“This was love: a string of coincidences that gathered significance and became miracles.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
“Women collect grievances, hold grudges and change shape. They pass hard, legitimate judgments, unlike the purblind guesses of men, fogged with romanticism and ignorance and bias and wish. Women know too much, they can neither be deceived nor trusted. I can understand why men are afraid of them, as they are frequently accused of being.“
–Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
“Because, once alone, it is impossible to believe that one could ever have been otherwise. Loneliness is an absolute discovery.”
― Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
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“In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature and Selected Essays
“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”
― Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan
“I’ve never been free in my whole life. Inside I’ve always chased myself. I’ve become intolerable to myself. I live in a lacerating duality. I’m seemingly free, but I’m a prisoner inside of me.”
― Clarice Lispector, A Breath of Life
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“There are tragedies and there are comedies, aren’t there? And they are often more the same than different, rather like men and women, if you ask me. A comedy depends on stopping the story at exactly the right moment.”
–Siri Hustvedt, The Summer Without Men
“They belonged to that vast group of human automata who go through life without neglecting to perform a single one of the gestures executed by the surrounding puppets.”
― Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
“In moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy but always against one's own body.”
― George Orwell, 1984
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“To be interested in something is to be involved in what is essentially a stressful relationship with that thing, to suffer anxiety on its behalf.”
― Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling With D.H. Lawrence
“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.”
― Albert Camus, The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt
“Even though I had known him forever, he was made of dreams, and holding onto him forever would have been impossible: he came from childhood, he was constructed out of childish desires, he had no concreteness, he didn’t face the future.”
–Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
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“How does anyone get over anything in places where the weather doesn’t change? If you live someplace where the seasons are all the same, how do you get over any one or thing.”
–Julia Pierpont, Among the Ten Thousand Things
“Physical forwardness as intellectual high-wire act: the pleasure not of pleasure but of performance and revenge against the retainer, the flute, the stack of expectations. Sex as rebellion against the way things should be. [Sound familiar? It is. No story on Earth is more common.]”
–Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies
“In most couples there is the person who wins and the person who doesn’t. The winner isn’t necessarily stronger or smarter or righter. The winner is the person who won’t give up, and the non-winner (“loser” is not the correct word for the person who does not win), at a certain point, realizes the battle is a silly one, and the spoils are not worth the extended warfare.”
--Heidi Julavits, The Folded Clock
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“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.”
–Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life
“She did not have the best of luck with men. Dating in New York City has apparently always been terrible throughout history. You know: A good man is hard to find, and all that jazz.”
--Jami Attenberg, Saint Mazie
”These women didn’t own me; they weren’t better than me. They were just younger versions of me and soon they would be me.”
–Karolina Waclawiak, The Invaders
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“Marriage is tough. You have to try and be your best self at all times. The horrid, petty, lying sack of shit you know yourself to be has to be daily wrestled to the ground. And it’s not like your heart curls up and dies; it continues to want and want and want. It, too, must be wrestled to the ground.”
–Elisa Albert, After Birth
“The trick of enjoying New York is not to be so busy grinding your way to the center of the earth that you fail to notice the sparkle of the place, a scale and a kind of wonder that puts all human endeavors in their proper place.”
— David Carr, The Night of the Gun
“You can’t keep a cool head when you’re drowning in love. You just thrash around a lot and scream, and wear yourself out.”
—Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride
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“Never did anybody look so sad. Bitter and black, halfway down, in the darkness, in the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths, perhaps a tear formed; a tear fell; the waves swayed this way and that, received it, and were at rest. Never did anybody look so sad.”
― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most. —Margaret Atwood

It all started with a poignant scene from the semi-scripted show The Hills, as many great intellectual undertakings do. The heroine and moral center of the not-quite-reality show that ran on MTV from 2006 to 2010 and preceded the rise of Real Housewives–esque wealth-porn TV was Lauren Conrad, a mega-privileged California girl with tons of wonderful opportunities, a beautiful apartment, great hair, and really bad taste in boys and friends. The entire show had a fake, airbrushed glow about it, but Lauren’s emotions always seemed so real. She felt things. There’s a famous screenshot from The Hills that shows Conrad arguing with a friend over some petty yet dramatic grievance and crying the most perfect single black mascara tear.

As I watched that gorgeous tear fall in slow motion, I thought of a quote from a novel I’d recently read: “Never did anybody look so sad. Bitter and black, halfway down, in the darkness, in the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths, perhaps a tear formed; a tear fell; the waves swayed this way and that, received it, and were at rest. Never did anybody look so sad.” It’s an observation from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse made by the matriarch of a large family about a young homesick maid in her service. It’s a passing thought, a tiny vivid portrait in the midst of a much larger stream-of-consciousness narrative that flicks between topics like the remote control of an avid channel surfer. The impression of LC’s (as she’s known to her fans) angst struck me in a similar way. Click.

We all know the thrill of reading a great line that illuminates an idea we’ve sensed but were unable to articulate, that magical feeling when a piece of writ- ing leads us to see the world with greater clarity or more wonder. Such epiphanies can be inspired by TV shows and pop songs and films as much as books, of course. Pop culture and literature are not mutually exclusive passions. In fact, they work in tandem. Media from every area of the spectrum can edify and influence us, and there are a zillion shades of gray within culture—there is so much fluidity between high and low. So of course Daria Morgendorffer, Whitney Houston, and Alex P. Keaton can inform our ways of thinking just as much as Sylvia Plath or James Baldwin ever could. The Fly Girls from In Living Color could be childhood inspirations just as much as Louisa May Alcott’s March girls. Our brains can be equal parts George Eliot and George Costanza, Jean- Paul Sartre and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, both Jane Austen’s Emma and Clueless’s Cher Horowitz.

What a delight to discover, then, that one of the greatest living writers of our time, Lorrie Moore, could inadvertently explain the appeal of America’s Funniest Home Videos and Jackass: “I have always felt that life is a series of personal humiliations relieved, occasionally, by the humiliations of others.” Or that the antiheroes who populate so many of TV’s most prestigious dramas—Omar Little, Tony Soprano, Walter White—echo the sentiments of the narrator of P. G. Wodehouse’s 1906 novel, Love Among the Chickens: “I am not always good and noble. I am the hero of this story, but I have my off moments.”

Looking through the lens of literature, you might discover that Hemingway expresses heartache in The Sun Also Rises just as palpably as My So-Called Life does, or that you might like Daphne du Maurier if you are completely obsessed with the Hitchcockian nighttime soap Pretty Little Liars. You might find that Veronica Mars or Lisa Simpson are feminist icons just as much as Susan Sontag is, or that Orange Is the New Black is a natural successor to Russian epics by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, or that Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation could have been a Jane Austen heroine.

Since 2009, Slaughterhouse 90210 has been celebrating the intersection of literature and pop culture. What started as a goofy mash-up designed to compare and contrast high and low culture to comedic effect (in retrospect, pairing F. Scott Fitzgerald with Jersey Shore in 2009 seems portentous of Snooki’s 2014 Gatsby-themed wedding) evolved into a larger, more diverse project that aims to inspire lovers of culture to binge read as much as they binge watch shows and films on Netflix. Great writing transcends time and place and is even more essential in our Internet-addled, DVR-addicted age than it ever was.

Slaughterhouse 90210 (Flatiron Books, 10/6) is available for purchase here.

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