The Big Rewind is a collection of autobiographical essays by Nathan Rabin. Rabin is the third author to be featured at the panel discussion I attended last month over at the DePaul Center. He was the first to read a selection and the sound engineering was not entirely worked out so I missed much of what he was saying. To compensate for that I picked up The Big Rewind before leaving the discussion and now am going to give it a shot.
Roger Ebert described Rabin’s life as reading “like a fanboy’s collision with Dostoevsky.” I got to talk briefly with Rabin after the panel discussion, mostly pleasantries and a brief discussion of the Watchmen t-shirt I was wearing at the time. This was stark contrast to the themes of the essay he read for the crowd earlier. While I do not consider myself an artist I try to always be looking forward to new forms of expression and creative endeavors. And insights into the hyper-accelerated pop culture world in which I find myself are have been curiously entertaining to me in the past. It is what drew me to reading Chuck Klosterman, and Klosterman is now the indirect catalyst for me reading Rabin.
Publishers Weekly writes:
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.