Little Big Man: A Novel
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“The truth is always made up of little particulars which sound ridiculous when repeated.” So says Jack Crabb, the 111-year-old narrator of Thomas Berger’s 1964 masterpiece of American fiction, Little Big Man. Berger claimed the Western as serious literature with this savage and epic account of one man’s extraordinary double life.
After surviving the massacre of his pioneer family, ten-year-old Jack is adopted by an Indian chief who nicknames him Little Big Man. As a Cheyenne, he feasts on dog, loves four wives, and sees his people butchered by horse soldiers commanded by General George Armstrong Custer. Later, living as a white man once more, he hunts the buffalo to near-extinction, tangles with Wyatt Earp, cheats Wild Bill Hickok, and fights in the Battle of Little Bighorn alongside Custer himself—a man he’d sworn to kill. Hailed by The Nation as “a seminal event,” Little Big Man is a singular literary achievement that, like its hero, only gets better with age.
Praise for Little Big Man
“An epic such as Mark Twain might have given us.”—Henry Miller
“The very best novel ever about the American West.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Spellbinding . . . [Crabb] surely must be one of the most delightfully absurd fictional fossils ever unearthed.”—Time
“Superb . . . Berger’s success in capturing the points of view and emotional atmosphere of a vanished era is uncanny. His skill in characterization, his narrative power and his somewhat cynical humor are all outstanding.”—The New York Times
can’t remember the last time you brought in any game. Why, Little Horse here is more of a man than you.” The latter had stayed outside to prepare that dog, and now he come in with the bleeding hunks of its flesh, his dress arms pulled back so as not to soil them, and he tries to calm her down, but Olga continues to Younger Bear: “I think you should change clothes with Little Horse, except that you are too stupid and awkward to be a heemaneh! And who is this foolish beggar you have brought here to
night, in the dead of winter, and struck out alone across the wilderness. I had to. I had not given up my resolution. I was going to kill Custer sometime, but first I had to get away from him for a while. Nor could I stand to be in the proximity of them captive Cheyenne. And going downriver to the still free Indians was equally unthinkable. I had had it, right up to here. I was going back to the settlements and get me some money, I didn’t care how or where, and buy a frock coat, a brocaded vest,
brother except to check whether it would draw on him again. In fact, I don’t think Hickok enjoyed anything. Life to him consisted of doing what was necessary, endlessly measuring his performance against that single perfect shot for each occasion. He was what you call an idealist. Well, it appeared a day or so later that my assumption he had left town was erroneous, for we had just started up our nightly poker session when Hickok’s big form swung into the saloon, and he stepped aside so his back
than I heard the troopers grousing about him: they was particularly burned up that he hadn’t let them be paid till they got into the field, which meant that even if they never found a hostile Indian, there’d be men in an outfit that size who would die of rattlesnake bite and the like, without having had a little celebration in town before they went on their last campaign. But once he had been shot by me, or stabbed in the back, he would turn into a hero. Anyway, General Terry was in actual
had, most of them not repeaters, either. I had a seven-shot Winchester carbine, but would have give anything to trade it for the old Sharps single with which I had hunted buffalo, for we in Custer’s party was now upon the summit of the ridge, farthest distant from the enemy as befits a general in defensive action. Below us and on a lower rise was Tom Custer’s sorrel-mounted troop, and to the left, Keogh riding to fill the gap caused by Calhoun’s collapse; then that deep draw into which the Gray