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

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

Nathan Rabin, Author . Scribner $25 (342p) ISBN 978-1-4165-5620-6

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)