The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture
By Nathan Rabin
Simon & Schuster, 342 pp.
As head writer of the The Onion's AV Club, Nathan Rabin has become one of the most entertaining and prolific entertainment writers around in recent years. From his film reviews to TV evaluations (his episode-by-episode look back at Saturday Night Live's first years on DVD is a great resource for fans of the show) to his "My Year of Flops" look at critical and commercial failures, Rabin's work is insightful, entertaining and profanely funny.
Rabin's memoir, The Big Rewind, uses his pop-saturated memory as a window into his life and times, with a different piece of cultural detritus prompting each recollection. Some of these involve his work for the AV Club and the short-lived TV review show Movie Club, while others rehash dysfunctional romantic relationships. But the most harrowing passages—and the ones that probably do the most to justify the book—detail Rabin's harsh upbringing, which includes a trip to the mental ward, a stint in a group home and an attempt to reconnect with the mother who abandoned him.
Did I mention that most of this is extremely funny? Rabin is aware that there are plenty of hard-luck stories out there, and he's just as hard on himself as he is on such targets as a video store boss, several girlfriends from hell and a Movie Club co-commentator married to the guy who wrote Soul Plane. But the beating heart of this memoir comes from the simple truth that the power of popular culture comes from its ability to inspire people and lift them out of whatever's going wrong in their lives. In its own way, this book is perhaps the best argument for the shrinking field of film criticism and serious pop culture writing, even when his stronger insights are mixed with some rather marginal arguments, such as a comparison of the death of Ol' Dirty Bastard to John F. Kennedy's.
Rabin also has a "My Year of Flops" collection and a compilation of AV Club pop-cultural lists coming out later this year. If you want to see some of his work, head over to avclub.com, which also features an excerpt from The Big Rewind.