Little Big Man
Thomas Berger
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Little Big Man (Little Big Man #1)

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  3,253 ratings  ·  195 reviews
Believe it or not, Jack Crabb is 111 years old. He is also the son of two fathers, one white, the other a Cheyenne Indian chief who gave him the name Little Big Man.

As a Cheyenne, Crabb feasted on dog, loved four wives, and saw his people butchered by horse-soldiers commanded by Custer. As a white man, he helped hunt the buffalo into extinction, tangled with Wyatt Earp, c

Published (first published October 9th 1964)
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Having been captivated by Thomas Berger’s use of language, by his imagination, by his sympathetic treatment of Native Americans, specifically the Cheyenne, I finished his marvelous novel, Little Big Man, a page-turner that kept me riveted from beginning to end. The protagonist is Jack Crabb, age 111, consummate raconteur, the story being told in the first person by this unlikely hero who moves frequently and easily between the worlds of the Cheyenne and the whites, illuminating the history of th...more
Carol Storm
Better than the movie, maybe, but not by much.

Whatever you think about the conflict between the Plains Indians and the white man, it's hard to identify with a "hero" who is really neither red nor white in his loyalty, who consistently takes the low road and whose outlook on life is completely mean-spirited and sleazy.

Now I'm no stranger to anti-heroes. I cheered for Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE as a naive young thing and I thrilled to the murderous violence of Lamar Pye in Stephen Hunter's DIRTY...more
The movie with Dustin Hoffman was very well done & follows the book fairly well, but the book captures the character even better. He's not a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination. He lives a long time & through some very interesting history. Living with the Indians & then scouting for Custer at the Little Big Horn, a fight against the same indians he lived with. There's a gritty, real feel to the entire story.
Laura C.
n this book, narrated by a prissy bachelor of independent means, we meet a wonderful character who, Forrestt Gump-like, takes us through the development of the American west. Jack Crabb's family was ambushed by a tribe of Cheyenne on the way to Utah to meet up with the Mormons. (His father, a preacher of some originality, was intrigued by the liberality of the doctrine,and felt they would be excellent neighbors.) Jack was raised among the Human Beings, as the Cheyenne call themselves, but meande...more
Sometimes a book is a good friend. Not "like" a good friend. An actual friend. You open your eyes in the morning and you remember that it is there, your friend, and you know you'll get through. This book was a good friend. Maybe it was Jack Crabb's (the narrator) unique, funny, irreverent, wise, one-hundred and eleven-year-old voice that sparked the friendship and kept it going. For a few days there, I sat next to Jack, by A fireside, listening to stories about his life growing up with the Cheye...more
Douglas Dalrymple
Thomas Berger seems to be one of those necessary Americans whose death (when it finally happens; the man is nearing 90) inevitably diminishes our national life. He's cut from the same cloth as Twain and Ambrose Bierce, and bears some stylistic resemblance, perhaps, to Peter De Vries.

That’s my impression anyway. My experience of Berger’s work is so far limited to his 1971 novel Vital Parts, his hilarious personal letters to Zulfikar Ghose, and now Little Big Man.

The book is clearly Berger’s att...more
Brian Bess
Just re-read this for the first time in forty years, when I read it shortly after seeing the movie. I had always rated it among my favorite novels and my estimation has not diminished. It is like a lost Mark Twain novel, in many respects surpassing most of Twain's own novels other than Huck Finn and Puddn'head Wilson. It is a major accomplishment and the forerunner to Zelig and Forrest Gump and any other 'little nobody just happens to be present at many major world events' stories that have come...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
I loved this book from beginning to end, there was never a time where I felt slowed down, stuck in any dull part. This is framed as the first hand account of Jack Crabb, who claims to be 111-years old and the only White survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The first line of his narrative starts: I am a white man and never forgot it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from age ten. That first line telegraphs the rest of the story. Jack, whose Cheyenne name translates to Little...more
Have you ever been reading a book and as the end approached you were sad that the end was coming? You know eventually you are going to have to put it down. It is like the last day of a really great vacation and you know tomorrow you are back to work. It is genuinely one of the ways I know how much I liked or even loved a book. This would describe how I felt near the end of reading, “Little Big Man”. For me, a remarkable read.

I had seen the movie before and had thoroughly enjoyed it. The title po...more
"I am a white man and never forgot it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten."

And so begins the story of Jack Crabb raised by Cheyenne Indians (also known as 'Human Beings') named 'Little Big Man' by his adopted father, Old Lodge Skins and involved in significant moments of American history but his name never appears on any documents.

'Little Big Man' is the story of Jack's many adventures and they are a joy to read, I have read 'Little Big Man' before and every time...more
Jul 30, 2009 Peter rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: humor, history
I approached Little Big Man from a novel direction (forgive the pun): I'd seen the movie before reading the book. In fact, I owned the DVD before reading the book. The movie is one of my favorites, you see.

I imagine that had to influence how I read the book. But not too much, I think; in fact, I found myself thinking of Mark Twain far more often than the movie. Berger's style in Little Big Man is very reminiscent of Twain's (somewhat modernized of course). That's appropriate, since the book purp...more
I am torn between a 4 and 5, but I think it merits a 5. I will read this book again, for many reasons: 1) it is quintessentially western American, in an honest and heartrending and funny way, 2) I kind of love Jack Crabb/Little Big Man for being so honest, funny, and scarily insightful, 3) I was blown away by how both white and Indian cultures were portrayed so honestly, with the difficulties inherent to both, and 4) it was an amazingly good, powerful, fun story of a pivotal time in history. I c...more
Erik Simon
So remarkable a book that it almost defies words that deign to describe or discuss it. I'm not sure from whence came the itch to reread this gem twenty years after I first encountered it, but for that itch I'm grateful. Having read so many other Westerns since then, I'm convinced this must be the finest. What better way to tour every major element of our history out west than through the farcical Jack Crabb, someone as red and white as he was true and false. Berger hit it out of the park with th...more
I don’t know where all the Westerns have gone, but I miss them even more after reading this book. I miss that last great American frontier and all the freedom and foreigness it held. I miss it all the more so now that we Americans have seemingly abandoned that “last frontier” of outer space in the face of intractable partisan bickering and the banal reality of our broken economic system. It is a sad day indeed when the last great spokesman for the once-mighty U.S. Space Program is Newt Gingrich....more
I liked this book, but not in the usual way. I had to ponder how to review this book for several days. I liked this book for it's "attitude" and "frankness" of times and cultures gone by, and yet, neither it's attitude or frankness would be appreciated by very many modern readers, except those with open minds and a sense of history. I'm afraid far to many modern readers would find this book far too politically incorrect for their liking. If you're looking for a tidy, feel-good western novel this...more
Jon Cardwell
If ever there was a "Great American Novel" I'd almost have to say, this is it; or at least running neck and neck with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Interestingly, the authors of both respective works, Thomas Berger for Little Big Man, and Nelle Harper Lee for To Kill a Mockingbird, only wrote and published one book each. Yet, the respective works of each define a generation, of which I am a part.

Although the movie, starring Dustin Hoffman as the main character, Jack Crabb, was very well do...more
I believe this is my favorite book of all time. Berger must have been possessed when he wrote it. He never duplicated the feat though Arthur Rex is fun. I read it three or four times. I like Dustin Hoffmann, but the movie doesn't cut it. For Native Americans in the movies, I'll take 'Black Robe."

How many people will admit that a novel changed his or her life? I switched from an English major to an Anthropology major. The book convinced me that the we are an absurd species, but no subject of stu...more
Always good to read a "Great American Novel" that actually is great.

A sweeping story of the birth of one nation and the death of another. Completely convincing in its depiction of American Indians, both on the surface and how their way of looking at the world differed so greatly from our own.

But on top of that, highly readable, no literary flourishes to describe the landscape, a very authentic dialect created without phonetic spellings (thank God) and also quite funny in places with a cast of m...more
I just finished this book two minutes ago, and I do not usually write reviews as they take time away from my own writing or reading further books, but this was a TRULY great book. I am sad that I only discovered Thomas Berger in the anniversary of his death, but grateful for the respected FB friend who recommended him to me as this novel is a true treasure, and Thomas Berger now proves he will live on beyond his demise. I live among the Navajo in NM and I cannot speak for all tribes or even them...more
If you only ever read one western, I suggest you read this one. Rather than focusing on one aspect of the time period as a backdrop for the story, Berger references jsut about every topic you would recognize from the late 1800s. Indians, Custer's Last Stand, Mark Twain, the Gold Rush, Santa Fe, buffalo hunts, cowboys and cowtowns, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp, and more. This book provides an overview of the events of that time period.
In his old age, Jack Crabb tells his story of the old West. At age ten, his family’s wagon train is attacked by Cheyenne Indians and Jack is captured and raised through his early teens as a Cheyenne. The story continues through his young adulthood, staying in the wild West and with Jack’s having time with both the Cheyenne and white people. The book’s strengths included depictions of Indian life, the attitudes and actions prevalent for both Indians and whites during the second half of the ninete...more
I liked this book but I liked the sequel better, "The Return of Little Big Man" which I read first due to it being featured as one of the Amazon Kindle picks of the month for June. I had hoped that with the Battle of Little Bighorn as a feature in this novel I would find it more gripping--but frankly, by the time the book got to Custer's Last Stand, the narrator seemed to speed through the event and the book then ended rather abruptly. I really liked the book overall, but the best parts were pri...more
Alec Hastings
Many readers who were young in 1965 will know of Thomas Berger's novel, Little Big Man, but new generations may not, and I'd love to see this book revived. I'm not one to say, "this is my favorite book" (there are too many, after all), but if I was pressed to name my top ten, this would be on the list. The main character (and eventual narrator) is Jack Crabbe. Like Mr. Jankowski, the ninety-something narrator of Water for Elephants, Jack is an old coot stuck in a nursing home. He claims to be on...more
Regan Sharp
Thomas Berger masterfully deconstructs myths of the Wild West by creating his own outrageous tall tale. Jack Crabb, a white boy, is raised by the Cheyenne after an unfortunate whiskey related incident with that tribe (who refer to themselves as "Human Beings.") They eventually give him the name Little Big Man (after slowly accepting him as one of their own.) He spends the rest of his life in their company or amongst white men. Along the way he meets a who's who of western figures and somehow inv...more
This is an entertaining book supposedly told in 1952 by Jack Crabb at age 111. Ten year old Jack Crabb was traveling with his family to Utah right after the Civil War when their wagon was attacked by a group of Cheyenne. Jack and his older sister, Caroline went back with the Cheyenne and Jack was raised in the teepee of the chief, Old Lodge Skins, after his sister stole a horse and ran off. He went back and forth between the whites and the Cheyenne several times, and took part in several battles...more
This book was great and probably provided the concept for the film Forrest Gump. The main character, Jack Crabb,is 110 year old man living in a nursing home who claims to have been, among other places, at the battle of Little Bighorn. He's not heroic, or even necessarily a good person but his unique viewpoint and hilarious narrative kept me highly entertained and committed to this novel. The story of this country's westward expansion and battle to wipeout the native american population standing...more
Over the past few months, I've come across several literary essays & reviews that have pointed to this book as one of the essential classic novels of the American west. One essayist claimed it the very best of its genre. Well, I saw the movie (with Dustin Hoffman playing Jack Crabb, the main character, from young adulthood through centenarian status) once long ago, and thought the movie just okay. But I nonetheless picked up this book thinking maybe the novel was a better book than a movie....more
Alan Wells
Reading this novel was like listening to a fascinating tale spoken first-hand from a talkative eccentric. Most of the read I found totally absorbing: funny, sad, and historically educational. Believability of what comes from the stories of Jack Crabb is a moot point. They were incredibly compelling and entertaining; and that for me, alas, is a weakness to which I most willingly surrender. They seem real; as does the character, and that was enough for me. How infrequently, if ever nowadays, does...more
Steven Howes
I wish this book had been available when I was in high school. It certainly would have been an entertaining way to explore American literature and learn about western history at the same time. Protagonist Jack Crabb seems to be the Forrest Gump of the American West, showing up at many historical events in the company of a number of actual figures and others who may have only existed in his mind. While the validity of his claims of involvement in certain events and with certain people is question...more
David Rush
I AM A WHITE MAN and never forgot it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten.

What a great first line.

I read Little Big Man before, so long ago I can't remember if it was 15 or 30 years past, so although I had forgotten much of it I knew what I was getting into. And it is well worth re-reading after a sizable span between reads.

Of course I am not a historian, anthropologist or Native American specialist, but that won't keep me from making broad pronouncements of the nat...more
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Thomas Louis Berger is an American novelist. Probably best known for his picaresque novel Little Big Man and the subsequent film by Arthur Penn, Berger has explored and manipulated many genres of fiction throughout his career, including the crime novel, the hard-boiled detective story, science fiction, the utopian novel, plus re-workings of classical mythology, Arthurian legend, and the survival a...more
More about Thomas Berger...
Arthur Rex Neighbors The Return of Little Big Man Sneaky People The Feud

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“If you want to really relax sometime, just fall to rock bottom and you'll be a happy man. Most all troubles come from having standards.” 11 likes
“You got to knock a man down and put your knife at his throat before he'll hear you, like I did to that trooper. The truth seems hateful to most everybody.” 3 likes
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