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The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture Paperback – July 13, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rabin, a writer for the Onion's arts section, endured a dysfunctional childhood marked by parental abandonment, a stint in a mental hospital and an adolescence spent in a group home and a drug-ridden co-op house. And in this memoir, he views his life through the blurry lens of formative cultural influences. His episodic narrative recounts a sarcastic, insecure youth's gonzo misadventures with a cast of freaks, misfits and aloof or cruelly promiscuous girlfriends, then moves on to adult run-ins with air-sick celebrities, bored prostitutes and nutty Hollywood types. Convinced that cultural tastes reveal the soul, like a My Space page, Rabin opens each chapter with an earnest (though rarely incisive) appreciation of some favorite in a personal canon that ranges from rap albums to The Great Gatsby, and intrusively peppers his writing with pop culture references. There are, alas, limits to the evocative power of pop culture references, and the author's arcane allusions—Susanne and Jack's relationship was like a gender-switched version of the star-crossed duo in the Stephen Malkmus song 'Jenny and the Ess-Dog' —test them. Rabin's vigorous, smart-assed prose sometimes brings the sideshow vividly to life, but it's marred by self-conscious fanboyism and labored jokiness. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“[The Big Rewind is] written with [Rabin’s] trademark humor, quirkiness and self-deprecation. It’s an homage to pop culture." —USA Today

“Nathan Rabin had the kind of childhood that aspiring memoirists dream of.” —TimeOut New York

“With his uncanny grasp of cultural zeitgeist, Rabin could unseat Chuck Klosterman as the slacker generation’s vital critical voice.” —Heeb Magazine
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416556214
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416556213
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #819,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Slocum VINE VOICE on June 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
[A Vine Review - Thanks, Amazon!]

Nathan Rabin may be a first-time author, but I know him well from reading his A.V. Club articles and the enormous discussion threads they spawn. His discursive, caustic, and quite funny writing style has a gift for transforming a long and pointless afternoon into something longer and just as pointless, only far more entertaining.

As a critic of today, Rabin's the kind of guy who can break anything down into popular entertainment references, so it almost makes sense that when he decided to tell the story of his life, he organized it into chapters referencing famous books, records, and films.

His stay as a boy in a mental institution? He's reminded of the book "Girl, Interrupted" - and careful to point out, not the later film adaptation.

Various relationships with girls are prompted with chapters spotlighting Rabin's takes on Rod Stewart and Jean-Luc Godard. Living in a hippie co-op in Madison, Wisconsin prompts a reference to "Freaks", the Tod Browning cult film. "My fellow co-opers were the stuff of Lou Reed songs," he explains.

Movies became for Rabin a channel of expression and a shelter from the storm: "Movies afforded the rewards of human interaction with none of the terrifying hazards of actual human contact," he writes. Real life has teeth, and Rabin often felt its bite.

I've seen this done before with songs alone, which do lend themselves to this kind of subjective treatment. Movies don't, and Rabin struggles to find the same connecting strands that come more easily from a song like "Maggie May". When Rabin uses "Apocalypse Now" as a basis for comparing a mildly domineering authority figure in Rabin's life to the terrifyingly unhinged Col.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What do El Pollo Loco, mental institutions, Siskel & Ebert, crazy moms in sweat pants, awesome music, long lists using commas instead of semicolons, and being Jewish have in common?

Nathan Rabin's The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture.

I should stop there, but I won't. I don't read a lot of autobiographies since they're usually stuffy "look at what an amazing person I turned out to be, one that you envy and now live vicariously through, since you just spent $30 to read about me" memoirs by people that I don't care about.

I don't care about Nathan Rabin, either -- actually, we're basically best friends now, just like Nathan and Topher Grace -- but this book made me laugh so hard a few times that I had to wipe tears from my cheeks. The guy's had an amazingly sad and entertaining life. He writes about it in a honest and humorously self-depreciating manner that makes it easy to relate to his life and his personal failures and accomplishments, but mostly his failures.

I enjoyed that he ties each chapter of his life (figuratively and literally) in with a song/album and/or a classic book or movie. Being the same age as the author, I found myself suddenly being sucked back to various parts of my youth and remembering exactly what it felt like to be alive when, for example, Nirvana was first blowing up and ending abruptly or watching MTV as NWA helped rap start to veer away from raps about gold chains and women to raps about guns, drugs, and women...and gold chains.

The honesty and bluntness of Nathan Rabin's autobiography impressed me incredibly.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I didn't know anything about Nathan Rabin prior to picking up this book, and although I enjoy The Onion, I hadn't read anything that he had written there. But I love pop-culture, and I nabbed this book up based on the words "The Onion" and "Pop-culture" from the book's description. That's how easily swayed I am.

Having finished this book, I can safely say that now I know oodles about Nathan Rabin. Most importantly: that Rabin is a witty, engaging and highly amusing story-teller (and that he rarely agrees with the Oscars). From the first page, this book had me hooked. Weaving a story from Rabin's turbulent youth, through the triumphant bonding with his father over Chipotle coupons and landing firmly in an Ebert and Roeper audition, (all tied up a with pop-culture touchstone bow) I couldn't put it down.

This book is dark, sarcastic and incredibly, intelligently funny. It is safe to say that anyone who enjoys The Onion, grew up with Nirvana or simply likes their humor dark, whether you know Nathan Rabin or not, will love this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nathan Rabin is one of the people who, for better or worse, has helped shape the way I view pop culture. First with his work at the Onion's AV Club (where he was the lead reviewer for many years) and later on with the Dissolve, Rabin spoke to me as someone whose judgment I could trust when it came to matters of great importance (like whether or not to see "Soul Plane," for instance).

"The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to you by Pop Culture," Rabin's first foray into memoir-writing, is a fantastic and funny (even when it's heartbreaking) look at Rabin's life and how pop culture saved him from an uncertain future. You might be thinking at this juncture "why would a critic write his or her memoir?" Much like Roger Ebert (whose "Life Itself," a wonderful book, served as the inspiration for the amazing documentary of the same name), Rabin has a life story worthy of retelling. Abandoned by his birth mother as a child, he was raised by a well-meaning but illness-stricken father, was committed to a group home in his teens after a suicide attempt, and has battled depression while trying to make his way in a world that stigmatizes the sufferer and doesn't understand the disease. Through it all, Rabin cites the examples of pop culture that either spoke directly to the period of his life he's addressing or else in retrospect seemed appropriate for the time that he's discussing in the chapter.
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