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The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture
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The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture

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3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  642 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Nathan Rabin viewed pop culture as a life-affirming form of escape throughout his childhood and adolescence. As an adult, pop culture became his life. Head writer for A.V. Club for more than a decade, Rabin uses specific books, songs, albums, films, and television shows as springboards for dissecting his Dickensian life story in his acclaimed memoir The Big Rewind.

Rabin w
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ebook, 368 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Scribner (first published June 30th 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Jennifer
This guy's got quite a story: after spending much of his youth in a group home for wayward Jewish boys, he grows up to be a movie critic for The Onion. However, the book ultimately reads like a bad party: you thought you were having an interesting conversation with a bright, funny guy; 45 minutes later he's got you pinned in a corner haranging you about some obscure band from the 70s.
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of The Onion's arts and culture publication, The AV Club (or at least I used to be, until mean-spirited "Hater" posts seemingly took over the majority of daily content there); and in particular I'm a slobbering devotee of their smart and funny head entertainment writer,
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Krok Zero
Despite the four-out-of-five star rating above, a lot of things about AV Club writer Nathan Rabin's memoir annoyed me. For one thing, Rabin panders to the pop-culture marketing hook with a gimmicky ploy in which he begins each chapter with a disconnected discussion of some film, song, book, or TV show. Sometimes this tack pays off, but for the most part it doesn't register as anything more than a gimmick. The book would be just fine without these little chapter intros. The meat of the book is no ...more
Mark
I really had high hopes for this book since the author writes for the Onion AV Club, a website that I read nearly every day. Unfortunately, this memoir is poorly written and unfocused. The first half of the book is the story of Nathan's childhood, a large portion of which was spent in group homes. As with most memoirs, it feels as if the author is leaving out a lot of details, details that would make his life seem less interesting. I have a feeling that anyone whose father attended the Universi ...more
F.R.
Nathan Rabin’s film writing on The Onion’s AV Club website is some of the most insightful, knowledgeable and witty I’ve ever read (if you want a good place to begin, check out his ‘My Year of Flops’ feature). As such it was his name on the front which led me to pick up this book which, obstensibly, is from a genre I’d not normally consider perusing for even three microseconds – The Misery Memoir.

However, Misery Memoir is a truly in-apt description of this constantly amusing book. Yes, Rabin has
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Amanda
I think this book is a bit too...academic in structure. Every chapter is like a moderately written essay for high school. He begins by synopsizing the pop culture artifact, vaguely relates it to a story from his life and clumsily tries to tie it all together in the end. Nothing about them feels at all authentic; I don't believe for a minute that these connections all occurred to him in the thick of his experiences. They all seem like gimmicky constructs for what would have been a pretty interest ...more
Andy Tischaefer
I like Rabin's work on the AV Club, which is why I rescued this from the bargain bin to give it a shot. This is written pretty well, and it has its moments, but for a novel billed as "brought to you by pop culture" I expected more pop culture. What I got instead was what felt like a straight-up memoir. It was interesting to learn more about where Nathan comes from - he's certainly packed a lot of strange living into his 30+ years - but I expected the book to be filtered through the pop culture l ...more
Chris
I picked this up on a whim. In the past year, I've been reading The Onion's AV Club and fascinated by its ever increasingly insane "Comments" section where rapturously obsessed people rant and rave and pick fights with one another over the ephemera of popular culture. Nathan Rabin is The AV Club's head writer and I've enjoyed quite a lot of his work, especially his thoughtful "My Year of Flops" film review series.

I was really surprised at how much I liked The Big Rewind. A lot of times when I re
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K
Like most people who will pick this up, I'm a fan of Nathan Rabin's writing for AVClub (Showbiz bookclub, Year of Flops, hip hop album reviews, recaps of the Office & 30Rock). In this memoir, he talks about some of the weird, tragic shit he's lived through "through the lens of pop culture," which basically means each chapter is framed by discussion of some piece of culture (song, movie, book, album, TV episode) that helps explain the Rabin life incident discussed therein. Some chapters, this ...more
Aaron
Nathan Rabin, the highly enjoyable Onion AV Club critic, gained a lot of fans with last year's online series My Year of Flops. Those essays tended to have several introductory paragraphs about some moment of his personal history tangentially linked to the film, and then move into a long discussion of the particular pop culture ephemera at hand, usually with lots of cussing. This book finds the formula switched, with essays where the first several intro paragraphs are about some pop culture item, ...more
Sarah
I love 90% of Rabin's writing on the Onion A.V. Club. He's hilarious and his pop-culture sensibilities are similar to my own. I also love memoirs and it has been hinted in his columns that Mr. Rabin has lead an interesting life, so I was totally stoked to read this book.

Unfortunately, this memoir, which is the definition of "try-hard", fails on multiple levels and it was hard to not let some of the disappointment affect my feelings on Rabin as a writer. He is constantly trying to be funny to the
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Darrenglass
I was a bit skeptical about the idea of reading a memoir written by someone younger than I am, but I like Rabin's writing for The Onion, and the promise of him 'viewing his life through the lens of pop culture' sounded intriguing. Alas, it was not as good as I had hoped -- despite his promises to have a Simpsons reference on every page, Rabin has written a fairly straightforward book about growing up in some pretty crappy conditions and pulling himself up through the requisite video store jobs t ...more
Amar Pai
I like Nathan Rabin's pop criticism a lot. He's a great writer when that's the topic. As memoirs go though, this isn't that great. The joke-a-minute humor feels too forced, and most of the jokes fall flat. Rabin's early life story is sad, but there's nothing that remarkable or fascinating about it. He grew up with an absent mom and dad with MS, and spent his formative years in a group home. Worked at Blockbuster, had a few failed relationships, started writing for the Onion, had a brief movie re ...more
Shannon
Totally deserves the "lulz" shelving. Rabin is funny, and this book manages to be a light/easy read while not being totally fluffy and irrelevant. His thing is relating various events in his life to pop culture references. A few of 'em seemed a bit of a stretch- Like he had one paragraph about some song or something and then just went on a diatribe about how he hated some skinny blonde hobag (who sounded abhorrent forreal). But mostly it all tied together really nicely. Aaand I am totally enviou ...more
Bob
Memoir of Onion AV Club writer Nathan Rabin where each chapter was themed by some pop culture reference.

I had such high hopes for this book. I like Nathan's writing when it comes to his witty reviews of movies, books and music. However, his talents didn't really translate well to book form.

The early chapters were well written and ranged from touching to funny and in some cases the pop culture tie-in was very poignant. This eventually devolved into the same trap many B-list celebrities fall into.
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Kara
As usual for me, I enjoyed the stories of Rabin's sad childhood plight much more than of his slightly better-adjusted adulthood. I absolutely love his work for the A.V. Club and think that his journalistic style is tighter and funnier than his memoir style. That said, there were poignant moments that really stuck with me, and some very sharp observations. The funniest moments in the book came when he stopped trying so hard. If you want to get intimate with Rabin's best work, go through the A.V. ...more
Nancy
I completely loved the first half of this book. It had me laughing out loud and was so entertaining. At that point I was actually thinking that I didn't want to read it too quickly; I wanted it to last. Then at about the halfway mark, it started to slow down, and it gradually slid downhill from there. And at that point, I actually just wanted it to end. All in all, though, a good read.
Claire
It's kind of impossible for me to review this objectively since Nathan is a good buddy of mine but I can say that I laughed out loud numerous times and even if you're related to me that doesn't mean you'll earn laffs from me. Pre-order (or order, depending when you read this) it today!
Willie Krischke
Nathan Rabin may not be a household name yet, or ever, but this book's a (mostly) compelling read anyone. He's a certified smartass, and his humor propels things along beautifully. And what a story to tell. Horatio Alger would be green with envy, if he weren't dead and gray. As you probably already know from reading the book summary (and other reviews) Rabin went through hell as an adolescent. Literally. Ok, not literally, but almost.

Rabin opens every chapter with some reference to pop culture a
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David Beavers
To be honest it would be difficult to recommend this book if you aren't already a fan of Mr. Rabin. Let's call this review 3 stars if you're familiar with his work, and 2 stars if you're not. Of course, I could be very wrong about this -- I think he's a terrific essayist/critic with wonderful comic style & a take on popular culture which is both acerbic and vulnerable. This could translate here more fully than I think it does, but my gut feeling is that unless you're already a fan of his art ...more
Patrick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lori Anderson
This was another book that gets its rating mainly because it wasn't the right book for me, not necessarily because of how it was written.

Nathan Rabin definitely has a way with words, and there were many instances where I thought he was eloquent and thought-provoking. I did, however, get tired of his talking about his penis. That just ruined a lot of it for me. I'd be feeling for him, really getting into his painful memories about his stay in a mental hospital or his relationship with the mother
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Chris
Using artifacts of pop culture (various records, movies, and songs that have affected the author at different times of his life) as centering mechanisms for each chapter of Nathan Rabin's memoir is an effective tactic. Whether it's the rise of orthodox Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu to explain his parents' decision to send him off to orthdox Jewish day camp even though they were not practicing Jews themselves or Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" to describe his six years in a group home, and to find the i ...more
Bridget
Mar 27, 2010 Bridget rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the Onion
I did not finish this book. This is a rare thing for me but I read enough of this book (100+ pages) to form an opinion on it. This opinion is formed by my subjective dislike for the Onion.

It was funny at the beginning. Mostly because of the author's pop culture reference awesome. I soldiered on hoping that the funny would continue. However, I don't as I mentioned above, like reading the Onion. It's not terrible and I realize that some folks really enjoy fake news and headlines but I find it tire
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Brandon Will
Rabin's painfully honest, sardonic, self-depreciating reflections on his baby-steps from fuck-up to fucked-up adult gave me some hope for all us underdogs of the world, his fellow fuck-ups who can and also can't picture a moderately successful life six months down the line might just find a ray of hope in this, even if it's vague, blurry, and fightin' it
s way through storm clouds.

And I figure this is what this book is here for: to amuse those who have been through similar situations (or not - ei
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Eric
I just don't understand reviews that say, "This needs an editor." All books are edited in some form or fashion. If the author wants to go wide or short on something, that's the author's call. Chances are very good that a lot of time and consideration was put into why some chapters are short and some are very long. I didn't think this book needed an editor.

THE BIG REWIND is a pretty straightforward read and mostly enjoyable. Whether or not you catch the various pop culture references, I think th
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Mindex
I really liked this book. It is a little dark at times, ok a lot of the time, but still manages to convey a not beaten down tone. Nathan Rabin's life was interesting enough, but the way he has tied in moments in his life with the pop culture references makes everything a little more accessible. He points out things that we all think, for example, that a singer is singing directly to us, that if only we met the famous person we idolize - we would be bestest friends, and other simple ideas.

I think
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Nathan
That’s the problem with all your stories, Nathan: They begin really cute and end with you getting viciously beaten.

The quote above summarizes Nathan Rabin's memoir as well as anything else. Rabin, the fantastic head writer of The Onion A.V. Club, pairs stories from his horrific upbringing with artifacts of pop culture that thematically reflect his life.

His tales are wry, and not self-serious (except in certain affecting moments, like the end of the chapter about his mother, who abandoned him),
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Peter Derk
This is a pretty damn good modern memoir. Great for fans of Chuck Klosterman who are looking for something a little more personal, maybe.

The intro was a little rocky for me, to be totally honest, and I'll tell you why. The intro seemed packed full of jokes and references that were used in humor, but it kind of freaked me out because I thought I'd be half way through the book believing comedic references and basically confusing Rabin's life with that of a Simpsons character. But that's because I'
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Doug
Pretty darn good. Memoirs these days tend to be self-congratulatory in their depravity and misery (I'm looking at you, Augusten Burroughs), but this guy is pretty good. This is mainly because he's trying to make a point with all these stories about his childhood. He's trying to explain how pop culture and movies and music are both a reflection of and the genesis of most of our shared experiences growing up.

This is also a notable book for me because it's the first time I've realized that I'm old
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“When I think about all the time I wasted feeling guilty and ashamed about things I should have embraced long ago, it fills me with guilt and shame.” 8 likes
“As a young man, my father taught me a valuable lesson: never be afraid to accept a handout. Not a hand-up, mind you, as hand-ups invariably entail doing some sort of "work" at some later point. That shit's flat-out distasteful.” 0 likes
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