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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 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 Onion A.V. Club, and here, by way of music, books, films, and television, he shares his too-strange-for-fiction life story. Using a specific book, song, album, film, or television show as a springboard to discuss a period in his life, Rabin recounts his Dickensian upbringing with biting wit and brutal, perhaps unwise candor. Throughout a traumatic childhood that sent him ricocheting from a mental hospital to a foster home to a group home for emotionally disturbed adolescents, Rabin reveals that not only did pop culture shape and mold him, it helped save him from suicidal depression, institu- tionalization, and parental abandonment. Perhaps the most entertaining book ever written about depression and sweet, sweet sexual humiliation, The Big Rewind is also an emotional tale of a motherless child’s search for family and acceptance and a darkly comic valentine to Rabin’s irascible, lovable, hard-luck dad. Featuring unexpected cameos by Billy Bob Thornton, a vomiting Topher Grace, and some dude named Barack Obama, The Big Rewind chronicles the surreal journey of Rabin’s life, and its intersection with the dizzying, maddening, wonderful world of entertainment.


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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 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 Onion A.V. Club, and here, by way of music, books, films, and television, he shares his too-strange-for-fiction life story. Using a specific book, song, album, film, or television show as a springboard to discuss a period in his life, Rabin recounts his Dickensian upbringing with biting wit and brutal, perhaps unwise candor. Throughout a traumatic childhood that sent him ricocheting from a mental hospital to a foster home to a group home for emotionally disturbed adolescents, Rabin reveals that not only did pop culture shape and mold him, it helped save him from suicidal depression, institu- tionalization, and parental abandonment. Perhaps the most entertaining book ever written about depression and sweet, sweet sexual humiliation, The Big Rewind is also an emotional tale of a motherless child’s search for family and acceptance and a darkly comic valentine to Rabin’s irascible, lovable, hard-luck dad. Featuring unexpected cameos by Billy Bob Thornton, a vomiting Topher Grace, and some dude named Barack Obama, The Big Rewind chronicles the surreal journey of Rabin’s life, and its intersection with the dizzying, maddening, wonderful world of entertainment.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    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. 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    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, (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, Nathan Rabin, whose remarkable "My Year of Flops" essay series was the direct inspiration for my own "CCLaP 100" series on literary classics. So I was overjoyed to learn that Rabin had recently written a full-length book away from his AV Club duties -- a memoir, in fact, that purports to tell the story of why he finds pop culture so interesting to begin with, and how his love for cheesy movies and gangsta rap led him to the high-profile career he now has. But whoa, then I actually read it, and realized the fascinating truth about Rabin, that he comes from a background so dysfunctional as to make Augusten Burroughs look like one of the Von Trapp kids; and that when he glibly mentions that "pop culture saved my life," he means that as a literal statement of fact, with it frankly being a minor miracle that he's actually a functioning member of society at all, instead of some junkie living in a dumpster behind a Taco Bell, much less the respected journalist and cultural essayist that he is. And in fact for the vast majority of its 350 pages, The Big Rewind is one unending, cringe-inducing nightmare, the tale of a spindly little Jewish nerd who's had the deck stacked against him nearly from birth -- the child of two '70s radicals who both eventually burned out but in vastly different ways, by puberty Rabin had already been institutionalized against his will, sent to and rejected by a foster family in the tony North Shore of the Chicago suburbs, and eventually consigned to a sort of halfway house for kids with behavioral problems in the dangerous Rogers Park neighborhood. And yes, as you can expect, Rabin uses these situations to relate a whole series of nightmarish anecdotes, a litany of horrors sure to be appreciated by any fan of Running With Scissors; but unlike Burroughs, Rabin uses these opportunities to deliver a lot of laugh-out-loud humor as well (typical line -- "I cannot stress this enough: do not take powerful hallucinogens before going to a Holocaust memorial"), and unbelievably enough mostly tries to stay light-hearted and optimistic when relaying all these past traumas. (Or, well, that's not the only difference between Burroughs and Rabin; unlike the former, for example, Rabin is actually a decent writer, and also doesn't feel the compulsion to just make up stupid sh-t whenever the narrative gets a little slow.) Eventually, of course, Rabin ends up at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where in typical fashion he falls in with a houseful of smelly hippies and hot undergraduate girlfriends who practice a lopsided form of polyamory (i.e. she gets to attend swinger conventions and be a "sacred prostitute," while he stays at home and smokes a lot of dope); and I say "of course" because Madison is where The Onion was originally founded, which for many years existed as not much more than a xeroxed zine handed out at record stores, and that didn't become the international cultural touchstone it now is until the rise of the Dot Com era in the 1990s. And I have to guiltily admit, there's something truly joyful about seeing someone with a dream job plainly confess that he considers it a dream job too; and I also have to admit, it's legitimately heartwarming to see Rabin confess near the end of the book that The Onion pretty much saved his life, and was what finally let him turn into the responsible, prolific adult he now is. Now, let's also admit that the book has its problems, ones that were mostly minor for me but that will bother others a lot more; just for starters, his actual writing style can get awfully immature at a lot of points, and it's obvious as well that he still has some issues to work out regarding his sexual orientation, given the uncomfortable frequency in which he obsesses over people who mistake him for gay, a semi-homophobic aspect of this book that I found a real turn-off. (And dear Lord, if you're the kind of person who chafes at the sight of random quotes from old Simpsons episodes, you need to avoid this book like the freaking plague.) All in all, though, I found The Big Rewind to be a very pleasant surprise, given that Rabin could've so easily just put together a compilation of his best AV Club material instead, and made a ton more money without any of the dirty laundry. It's a gutsy book, a riveting one at points, and it comes recommended to anyone who enjoys a brisk, witty read. Out of 10: 8.6

  3. 5 out of 5

    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 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 not really engaged with pop culture, despite the misleading title. Furthermore, Rabin can be an undisciplined writer. This isn't a big problem at The AV Club because his work there is shortform and never wears out its welcome. But in book form his repetitiveness, self-indulgence, and overuse of adjectives and adverbs grows tiresome. I'm also not convinced that Rabin needed 70 pages to talk about his cancelled TV show; this section of the book drags, in contrast to the zippy readability of the rest of the book. So why the high rating? As television critic Alan Sepinwall is fond of saying, funny forgives a lot. And as any loyal AV Club reader can tell you, Nathan Rabin is a funny motherfucker. Although his primary duty is film criticism, it's clear that Rabin fancies himself a humorist; he sneaks (genuine) funny business into damn near everything he writes. So while Rabin's youth is the stuff that drab, miserablist memoirs are made of—the kind of thing my mom's book club is likely to devour with easily manipulated fervor—his sense of humor makes something infinitely readable and funny out of it. For a guy with such a cushy job Rabin has had a surprisingly crazy-ass life, and he relates his wild anecdotes with a satisfying mix of piercing introspection and ironic humor. The results are occasionally moving and always funny, so it's easy to overlook my qualms.

  4. 5 out of 5

    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 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 University of Chicago and whose sister went to an exclusive boarding school did not really lead the poverty stricken life that he claims. If readers are interested in reading a memoir about life for a "normal" teenager in a group home, I recommend Janice Erlbaum's Girlbomb instead. The second half of the book covers Rabin's adulthood, which should be interesting since this is when he began working for the Onion. Instead, he spends most of this section of the book on the minutiae of working for a short-lived series on American Movie Classice. If the behind-the-scences machinations of basic cable series are your interests then this might be the book for you, but I found it tedious. The book is poorly edited as well. At one point, Katie Holmes is referred to as Katie Dawson, to give just one example.

  5. 5 out of 5

    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 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 interesting memoir. I guess that's just part of Rabin's self-esteem issues. He probably didn't trust his story to stand on its own. I'm sure he could have peppered in some pop culture since it played such a huge role in his life and that book would have been much better. He's extremely funny and, although it's a polished rehearsed humor, it's still laugh-out-loud stuff. The guy has talent. I also think he's kind of a snob and that bugs me. The reasons I love Jacob Clifton and Chuck Klosterman are because they are, at their cores, populists. They believe that there is a broad spectrum of art that is worthwhile. Rabin pretends to be a populist but then says really pretentious things (his argument about Shakespeare was telling; I agreed with him and I still felt that I would vomit were I witnessing such a disagreement in person) and makes snide remarks about obviously lowbrow things (as if anyone needs to be smart to mock a fluffy romantic comedy, for example). Favorite quotes are plentiful: "It was a locked room with padded walls and a video camera in the corner to make sure patients didn't, in a fit of superhuman rage, rip out their spinal cord, then use it to slash their wrists. Arkham Asylum imagined that its inhabitants were the MacGyvers of suicide." - p. 36 "If I were capable of human emotions, tears of joy would have been streaming down my face. You know that feeling you experience upon witnessing the birth of your first child? It was like that, only a thousand times better, because free burritos were involved." - p. 76 "After the show one of the visiting punks had his penis pierced in our kitchen, a wildly unhygienic procedure that was videotaped 'cause, let's face it, that's something you'll totally want to show the grandkids." - p.154 "I cannot stress this enough: do not take powerful hallucinogens before going to a Holocaust memorial." - p. 200 "Then two things hit me simultaneously. They were, in order: 1. My God, I'm seated next to Topher Grace! and 2. My God, I think I might be gay!" - p. 221 "I wasn't entirely sure Head Producer Guy didn't consider hip-hop a passing fad, like Pet Rocks or voting rights for women." - p. 237-238 "Apparently America's innocence is an endlessly renewable commodity. You know, like oil." - p. 239

  6. 4 out of 5

    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, 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, then segue into how it deeply related to some period of his life, still with lots of cussing. Unfortunately, the results for this book are less enjoyable than its (free) MYOF counterpart. Reading all these essays in a few sittings, enhance Rabin's weaknesses as a writer and make it easier to ignore his strengths. He has a fondness for cliches (his father, at one point is "sad eyed"), he tends to have a some writing ticks that become glaring in multiple essays (repeating the same adjective like "it was a stupid, stupid, stupid decision" stops sounding funny after a bit and starts sounding like newspeak), and the essays are a little too discursive, often referencing characters that don't actually get introduced to until significantly later in the book. What is most apparent from this book, sadly, is that Rabin is completely solipsistic. A fun game for future readers would be to see all the different words he deploys that have "self-" as a prefix. It's fair enough that a memoir is going to be inward-looking, but here Rabin rolls so far into himself that it's often impossible for the reader to notice any wider context. Despite focusing his first essay on his childhood, we don't find out he has a sister until 16 pages in; she doesn't get a chance to say anything until 150 pages later. Even if she is uncomfortable being written about, it would have been better to make that explicit. The reader is left knowing all about how Rabin feels about Matisyahu, but not this huge part of his own personal history. As it stands, the book fails to do what Rabin wants -- detail how pop culture can be this positive force that allows someone to deal with the tragedies around him. Instead, it seems to be a dark, almost cautionary tale of how relying on pop culture can drive someone deeper and deeper into their own imagination and inner worlds that they end up being cut off from any human connections. This point is interesting, but reading all the essays, the self-indulgence and self-obsession becomes annoying. When the book is at its strongest, it's pretty damn hilarious. It's too bad that the structural and thematic weaknesses prevent these moments from occurring more often.

  7. 5 out of 5

    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 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 gone through many life-events which lend themselves to mopish wallowing – abandonment by his mother, depression, a mental hospital, long experience of foster homes – but instead of playing up the ‘woe is me’ tragedy of it all, he examines them with eager irreverence. The book’s gimmick is to link each of these events with a specific piece of popular culture – a song, a movie, a book – which allows him to broaden out his personal trauma and also to bring in other references and wisecracks that normally have no place in this type of work. It’s a trick which helps leaven even the harshest passage, as well as suggesting that when reaching out to fellow man, a shared popular culture knowledge is a fantastically useful tool. If I was to voice one reservation it’s that a lot of references are America-specific, which means that – if like me – you’re not based in the U.S., some of them will launch into orbit over your head. But that’s quibble (which country is he really going to focus on after all?) This – for all the trauma in its pages – is a genuinely moving and funny book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    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 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 read books like this, I feel as though the author is more interested in mythologizing themselves rather than telling an interesting story... if they even have something interesting to say to begin with. Rabin has a lot of rough stuff happen to him in his adolescence and he mines that material to great effect. There are some insightful thoughts on his time living in a home for emotionally troubled teenagers that I liked particularly. He's good with a one-liner and while the thread of the memoir falls off a bit when he hits the section about his time working on a failed movie review show for AMC, it's still a fun read. His approach to pop culture as a trope for introducing chapters is a little overworked thematically, but I found a lot of his conclusions to be right on the money. In particular, his defense of gangsta rap to be totally insightful.

  9. 5 out of 5

    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 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 point where it's distracting and tedious. He writes about himself with so much self-conscious self-loathing that it's painful. And I got crazy second-hand-embarrassment when he started writing about his current girlfriend. I mean it's great that Rabin found someone nice but his emotional maturity is such that he writes about her as if he was a 20 year-old in his first serious relationship. The only parts of the book that are really good are the parts that focus primarily on pop-culture and celebrities. Unfortunately he awkwardly tried to break his life up into these chapters that related to some aspect of pop-culture and that conceit doesn't really work. Basic takeaway - Rabin should stick to writing about pop-culture, and let his personality and life shine through that writing - not the other way around. Sorry, dude.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Hirsch

    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 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 describing Rabin's ray-of-light, as it were, those years wherein he discovered The Onion as an outlet for his acerbic wit, as well as his short-lived tenure as a TV film critic. The author's breadth of pop culture knowledge is without peer (except maybe Patton Oswalt), and Rabin's writing style is at once painful, honest, self-deprecating, and hilarious. I try to pace myself when I read a book, and it's a tribute to this author's gifts, and the story he has to tell, that I read, nay-devoured- this book in short order. After reading a few chapters of Nathan Rabin's sordid tale, I abandoned all hope of pacing myself. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I would also encourage readers to pick up Rabin's book "My Year of Flops."

  11. 4 out of 5

    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 wor 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 works with better than others, but in most chapters, it works fine. It's chockful of the exact same kind of profane and silly humor that characterizes his columns. It's a little amazing how many jokes he manages to crack, actually, considering how sad some of the episodes are: (psychiatric hospital stay, group home, reuniting as an adult with the mother who abandoned him as a child, visiting a whorehouse). Still, genuine, touching emotions are evident through the wild, possibly compulsive mugging. Could have done with maybe 20-30 fewer pages about the failure of his short lived TV show, though. A fun read, ideal for long trips to the bathroom.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    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 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 landscape a bit more. As such, I was left wanting. One other complaint - I kept getting lost in time while reading it. I would have appreciated a few more dates thrown out there, so that I could orient myself within the story and within history. I didn't mind inherently that he would double back on himself for the sake of the narrative, in fact I understood why he did it and it worked, from a story perspective. However, it was confusing at times to suddenly realize that we'd gone back a few years, or skipped forward. Recommended only for A.V. Club / Nathan Rabin fans.

  13. 4 out of 5

    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 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 to become a print and tv movie reviewer. There were some interesting anecdotes, especially the behind the scenes stuff at The Onion and at his short-lived tv show, but in general I was not all that interested in Rabin's life, and the framing device of tying each chapter into some movie or album or book ended up more hokey than authentic.

  14. 5 out of 5

    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' 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'm dumb. But fear not, fellow dum-dums. After the intro the book evens out a little and you'll fall right into the natural pacing and humor. If you're still not sure, skip ahead to the chapter where Rabin descirbes the reaction of a focus group to Movie Club> (maybe about pg. 300. Goddamn hilarious.

  15. 4 out of 5

    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 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 envious of this guy that he writes for The Onion. Fun fact: I found this book by searching the library keyword database "group home" and then I read it b/c of the cover. I was like "Omg a guy with a TV for a head. That shit's ridiculous!" Anywayyy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    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 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 review show. I don't know, I guess in the hands of a masterful writer this could be compelling but in this book the jokey superficial voice gets kind of old. Like I said though, I really do like Rabin's writing for theavclub. So maybe buy the book just to support him. I did.

  17. 5 out of 5

    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. 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. An endless stream of name dropping to prove his relevance. It wasn't a horrible book and maybe some others will get more out of it than I did.

  18. 4 out of 5

    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. 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. Club website and read his movie reviews.

  19. 4 out of 5

    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. 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.

  20. 4 out of 5

    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! 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!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julene

    Please, no more memoirs written by persons younger than 52.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rita Arens

    There is a fine line between witty and mean, and Nathan Rabin rides it on a unicycle.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    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 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 the other side of the story when the other parties involved have not written their own memoirs.  As a reader and as a music listener I have always been intrigued and fascinated by the duels that exist between famous people who have some sort of contentious personal relationship, but within my own life I have found that my own stories and the stories of other people with whom my life has been entangled is by no means a straightforwardly enjoyable task, as other people see the same situations as very different than I do, and no less fiercely.  So it is here, more than likely. This book is organized in a generally chronological fashion in chapters that tie together the events of the author's life with some pop culture phenomenon that the author found himself interested in or influenced by.  The book begins with a discussion of the juxtaposition of the anthem "King Without A Crown" to the author's experience spending summer with some religious Hasidim youth (1) and then moves on to a discussion of the connection between the excellent film Sullivan's Travels and the need for escapism from the awkward years of one's youth (2).  After that the author moves into more embarrassing territory, connecting Girl Interrupted with a stint at a mental hospital (3), the Great Gatsby to a disastrous time with some wealthy Jews (4), and the Catcher In The Rye to his arrival at a group home (5).  Later chapters continue this theme of discussing the author's fondness for grunge music (6), his secret enjoyment of vermouth (7), and the strange career of the caretaker of the group home (8), as well as experiences in working at Blockbuster Video (9), and a couple of disastrous relationships (10, 11).  A couple of chapters detail the author's awkward experiences in college as part of a collective (12, 13) and show him working at the Onion for the first time (14).  He talks about meeting his birth mother (15), dealing with fear and self-loathing (16) and the sex industry (17), discussing some meetings with famous people (18), pointing out some of the silliness of his time as part of a less than entirely heterosexual review show (19, 20, 22), and detailing why polysexual relationships aren't for everyone (21). Is this a good book?  I don't know.  It's not a book I plan on recommending to anyone, except for one of my friends who could relate to the experiences of being a teenager in an asylum, but if you like gossipy memoirs that make the protagonist look like a total schmuck, you can do a lot worse than this.  This book is a memoir in the classic form of the self-hating Jew and not everyone is going to appreciate that.  The author clearly had a dramatic and troubled youth, and this certainly has influenced his own life and career, but it can be wondered whether the author made the most of his opportunities.  Given his own troubled youth and clear struggles with intimacy, it can be said that the author has lived as good a life, and perhaps even a better one, than he had any right to expect.  He has a loving father, a crazy mother, enough talent to review films, and the right sort of absurdist sense of humor to turn the inevitable lemons of life into lemonade, or at least to slice them up to adorn glasses of water and sweet tea.  And while few people likely care about the life of the author, it is an interesting enough life to read about.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becky Carleton

    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 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 adolescent angst as much as I do, so I looked forward to poring through Rabin’s memoir, crying my eyes out. Plot twist! I couldn’t stop laughing. WTF? How could this guy turn his anguish into joy and inspiration? Where was the misery, the long lectures on how stigmatized and soul-crushing our mental health treatment is in this country? Where was the blame for his parents? I expected to be horrified by this man’s atrocious upbringing. Instead, I was entertained and uplifted by his story. So, if you’re not like me and you actually like books to enliven and entertain rather than amplify your depressive moods, I recommend reading The Big Rewind yourself.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    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 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 funny or fun to remember, and he uses the pop culture that he loves as a framing device for each chapter. One thing about re-reading this book is that it's caused me to think about all the stuff that I love in pop culture and how it relates to my own life, the ups and downs and all arounds. Rabin is a great, great writer (you should check out his website at www.nathanrabin.com if you haven't already), and this is a great book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    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 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 stole his heart and meeting his "Super goy" biological mom, redeem the book. I'd love to a second memoir by Rabin, either filling in some gaps in his early history if possible or just exploring what happened after his disastrous relationship with O.

  27. 4 out of 5

    AnnMarie Johnson

    After a week of not really being interest I finally said I really should read something I wanted to. B

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    "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." "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."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Doug Mckeever

    ITT - white male complaints

  30. 5 out of 5

    Theremin Poisoning

    Witty, funny, touching, and Klosterman-esque.

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