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

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  798 ratings  ·  112 reviews
From the head writer at The Onion A.V. Club, a painfully funny memoir as seen through the sturdy prism of pop culture—for fans of Chuck Klosterman and Augusten Burroughs. As  a  child  and  teenager,  Nathan  Rabin  viewed  pop culture as a life-affirming form of escape. As an adult, pop culture became his life. For more than a decade he’s served as head writer for The Oni ...more
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Scribner Book Company (first published June 30th 2009)
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Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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,
Krok Zero
Jul 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-2009
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
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 06, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, memoir
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
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Joseph Hirsch
Apr 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was already familiar with Rabin, after reading his "Year of Flops," which I found thoroughly enjoyable. This book is just as entertaining, if not moreso, since it is much more autobiographical in nature.

Nathan Rabin guides the reader through the byways of his very rough childhood spent in a group home. He then segues into describing his life as a Blockbuster Video employee living in a college coop with his 'shroom-addled and poly-amorous cohorts. The final portions of the book are devoted to d
May 13, 2009 rated it liked it
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 wor ...more
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 07, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Peter Derk
Mar 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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'
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, lulz
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
Amar Pai
May 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 16, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it
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. ...more
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! ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Please, no more memoirs written by persons younger than 52.
Rita Arens
Jun 29, 2015 rated it liked it
There is a fine line between witty and mean, and Nathan Rabin rides it on a unicycle.
Nathan Albright
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
In reading this book one finds out a lot about Nathan Rabin and his insecurities, but at the same time, writing this book required a fair amount of cheek.  Even the author himself, in later works, has noted that the writing of a memoir like this one can seem to be an act of great unfairness in that it presents disputed or contentious aspects through only the point of view of the writer, and the reader is left having to take the author's word for it because there is no way that one can easily get ...more
Becky Carleton
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My usual fangirling abounds when I get my hands on a good depressive rumination, so you can imagine my dismay when I discovered Nathan Rabin’s memoir is funny and a fast read. Rabin, a film critic and head writer for The Onion’s AV Club, organizes the memoir of his early suicidal years with chapter headings referencing movies and other pop culture influences. He’s a cross between Susanna Kaysen and Chuck Klosterman, mental patient meets pop culture aficionado. I know no one who appreciates adole ...more
Trevor Seigler
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nathan Rabin has been one of the guys that inspires me to take pop culture seriously over the years, and it's been a pleasure knowing him online for years now. In this uncertain time, now more than ever, I find myself re-reading books on my shelf, and this is one of them. But it's really, really good, so that's a bonus.

Rabin had an interesting, difficult childhood and teenage years. He write honestly, candidly, and hilariously about many of the times in his life that wouldn't otherwise be so fun
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Laugh out loud funny. Of course, it is also kind of heartbreaking, but Rabin's self-deprecation is always entertaining. The first half of the book works more than the second half. In truth Rabin could have used a more assertive editor to draw out more earlier memories and rein in his effusive gushing about the entertainment business (for example, the three chapters on two seasons of Movie Club with John Ridley). But the parts that work, especially the hilarious chapter on the polyamorist who sto ...more
AnnMarie Johnson
Jun 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
After a week of not really being interest I finally said I really should read something I wanted to. B
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"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." ...more
Doug Mckeever
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
ITT - white male complaints
Theremin Poisoning
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Witty, funny, touching, and Klosterman-esque.
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