A Good Book to Read: Little Big Man is a GREAT book to read

A really great and funny book.
A really great and funny book.

Little Big Man

Those of you who have read enough of my stuff know that I work tirelessly toward the unintended consequence of poverty with everything I write. In my seventy-something hub articles, I have tried to sell nothing. I did one evening write up a review of my favorite movie of all time, but I’m not sure that counts as trying to sell something so much as sharing a passion among friends.

Well, if you are a book lover, I am now going to try to sell you something. I’m going to try to sell you a book that I just read. It’s an old book, fifty-ish years old. They made a movie out of it, so obviously it couldn’t have sucked too bad. But I don’t think you should get the movie until you read the book. Here’s why:

The book is Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man. I know for some of you, I am simply late to this party. That is fine. Joy is joy, so I don’t care that I didn’t get to it until just now. I did finally get to it, and joy is exactly what this book is. It is amazing.

I have never read and laughed so hard, so often, out loud—as in actually out loud, not just “lol” as an acronym—as I did at this book. I have frequently written about humor and what it means to me. I try to write funny stuff. A handful of you might actually think I accomplish it from time to time. So, I feel I have a certain qualification to speak on such things.

Little Big Man is hilarious. Berger creates a character in Jack Crabb that is so persnickety and cantankerous yet so cool and strong and heroic and loveable that it is hard to describe how all these contradictions can possibly work together as well as they do. And it is in the unexpected combinations of things that humor often comes. Jack Crabb is hilarious. This book is like an old fashioned Mark Twain romp, except perhaps in some ways more accessible. It’s just plain fun. But it’s not just fun. It’s deep. So very deep.

General Custer is just one historic figure Crabb meets, along with Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok...
General Custer is just one historic figure Crabb meets, along with Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok...

The story is set in the mid to late 19th century American West, but it is not a “western” in the generic, genre way. While it might get called a Western, it is NOT “a Western.” Little Big Man is a story about a man who lived through a violent and yet exciting time. It’s an unlikely yarn of epic proportions where the 111-year-old Crabb narrates his adventurous youth, placing himself pretty much everywhere anything important happened. He somehow manages to be involved in everything of note that happened during that period of the historical mid-west. If there were ever an “unreliable narrator,” Jack Crabb would be him, except that somehow, despite how absurd his tale is, you buy it. All of it. In large part, this is because Berger has taken the most painstaking care in his historical research and, while totally absurd on the face of it, Crabb’s story is actually plausible. It is a delightful defiance to what you expect and would expect yourself willing to believe. As your imagination and reason are challenged and tumbled along, Berger’s Jack Crabb takes you on a journey into the nature of humanity—the nature of race, of personal narrative, of the general essence of what it means not only to be white or black or American or Native American or even extremes as distinct as whore or fine lady… it’s about being human in an actual world that revolves around our own definition of ourselves. It’s a truly post-modern delight.

At least that’s my take on it. I’ve only read it once and it is all I can do to not just start reading it again despite having a huge stack of NEW things I really want to read too. In fact, I may anyway. I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in probably ten years. Maybe more. And I read a LOT. English major. Writer. Book Geek. Always have been. I’m telling you, if you like a great, great story, in the flavor of a Western but really SOOO much more, you are in for a real treat.

Don’t watch the movie first.

I’m serious. It’s not that it will ruin the ending; it will ruin how you appreciate what Berger has done. Watch it after. It’s good. Very funny. But it really will make it so you can’t see what takes place in the book. You just have to trust me. You will rob yourself of Berger’s amazing craft and delicious narrative voice. Read it. Read it slowly and just enjoy being in that great place and time. It’s awesome.

Then come back to this article if you think about it and let me know what you think.

(watch the movie AFTER you read it)

Buy Your Copy Today!

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Christopher Price profile image

Christopher Price 5 years ago from Vermont, USA

Shadesbreath,

I almost want to apologize for having seen the movie starring Dustin Hoffman back when it first came out, but I can't...it was a good movie, very appropriate for the times and I liked it.

No worries, I'm one of those people who forget much of what I watch within a fairly short period of time...it's almost on purpose, and I do nothing to mitigate this trait because it lets me enjoy second viewings and reruns more often.

Anyhow, your unqualified endorsement of the book "Little Big Man" is good enough for me. I will do my best to find and read it, and get back to you.

Thanks for the well written recommendation.

CP


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

Reading is a lost pastime nowadays. With the convenience of the internet and everything in fast forward. I have seen the movie when it was first released and like the main character in "Forest Gump" It takes us on a grand tour of a lost and turbulent era.One thing that remain in memory was the injustice commited against Native Americans that the movie showed


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

CP, thanks for popping in. I too forget things, although not quickly enough. But I have a lot of things I can go back to the older I get that I've forgotten and they usually get better the second time. I hope you can find it and enjoy the book.

SilentReed: While I don't quite agree that reading is a lost past time nowdays, I do agree that less people read deeply or read seriously than they did in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Internet and before that television and movies made it easier to skip the focus and concentration required to fathom deeper points in favor or the bright flashing lights of the quick version. Which is fine as far as entertainment goes, and even for point making to a degree. The book is so much richer than the movie in terms of humanity and essence of self. Its not a "ooh, those darn white guys killed the Native Americans" thing, but rather an exploration of culture and an ennobling portrayal of humans, flawed horribly as they may be. The movie is funny, but it's easy. Which is why I say it's better to read it first if possible, so the art, and the real joy of the reading isn't poisoned by the politics required to make the movie acceptible in the amount of time allowed by a film (as CP said "appropriate for the times". They're almost two entirely different stories.

Speaking of which, you're right about Forrest Gump. Great comparison as far as someone being everywhere. Nice pull.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 5 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

Good Day Shadesbreath

Well I will certainly put Little Big Man on my reading list! There was a quality about how you wrote this hub which suggests to me that you were almost actually bursting to spread the word. Its a fine thing when something or someone inflames such passion in you, is it not? I voted the hub up for useful.

See you around.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

A humanist like yourself will really like this one, WC (if I may abbreviate your name thus). And I agree, it is a fine thing to come across something that stokes your fires and gets your wind up and all that sort of thing. It doesn't happen enough, don't you think?


nettraveller profile image

nettraveller 5 years ago from USA

Thank you for the recommendation. It also reminds me a bit of "Being There", with Peter Sellers. Although Chance's character is innocent, he also ends up everywhere the action is.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

I vaguely remember that, Nettraveller. I'll have to look that one up again. Thanks for the refresh.


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 5 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

Knowing you mostly by reputation, I "ken" another voracious reader. Your recommendation hit home, and I cannot wait to order this from inter-library loan. Although it is not a "new" book coming out, I haven't been this excited about an anticipated read in a long time. Thank you.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines

I will surely check this out! It sounds like a real nice read. Thanks for the heads up Shadesbreath!

God bless!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

LillyGrillzit, if you are a "bibliovore" as I was called recently, then you will enjoy the heck out of it. I'm curious to know what you thought.

Jill of alltrades, I hope you do get to it. It's a riot. Make sure you read the prologue. :)


jessicab profile image

jessicab 5 years ago from Alabama

Very interesting, I enjoy reading your hub.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks for saying so, Jessicab. :)


spryte profile image

spryte 5 years ago from Arizona, USA

Ahhhh too late for me. I saw the movie with Dustin Hoffman many, many years ago and loved it. Books are ALWAYS better than the movie, so I'm sure I'd love it even more in print and may just pick it up when I'm done with my latest novel.

In a way, Little Big Man always seemed, imho, to be the Forrest Gump of its time. Both moved me incredibly and had me laughing out loud at the implausibility of their scenarios...but I rather liked the alternate history better at times.

I agree...they both reminded me of a Mark Twain yarn. Twain had that gift of exagerration too and a tendency to allow the humor to sometimes be at the audience's expense (all in good fun, of course!) You can't help but walk alway with warm fuzzies and a smile.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

Like others, I also saw the movie "way back when" and never thought to look for a book.

I will order that now.


surlyoldcat 5 years ago

I'm surprised you have just gotten to this book. I remember reading this back in the 80's and then finding out it was a movie shortly after.

This truly IS an excellent book and you have done it justice with your review.

Well done. :)

CHEERS!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Saw the movie, loved it, didn't know there was a book, will get it as soon as possible. I'm anxiously anticipating the next in the series of Jack Reacher books which is due out any day now and I have to find out how Jack survived the incredible ending to 61 Hours. So I am on pins and needles to read Worth Dying For, but I would love a a good comedic read while I'm waiting. Thanks, SB!


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

Right. So there is no misunderstanding and no risk of ruining our beautiful friendship, I shall give you a detailed accounting of what you owe me. My bank details are in the post, and that you can send me the money whenever it's convenient:

1. - Price of book on your story = $8

2.- Price of book after clicking on the Amazon image: $10.88

3.- Price converted to Pounds Sterling - where my

account is held, £12.30

4.- Actual cost to me in US$ = $19.61

5.- Extra amout paid by me = $11.61

As I said, there is no hurry, just put the money in the self addressed envelope I have sent you :-))))))


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

My question is - How can I NOT get "Little Big Man" and read it as soon as possible after reading your enthralling review? I'm in luck too - have not seen the movie though I was tempted if for no other reason than Dustin Hoffman - plus I like history and period movies and stories. I definitely enjoy repeat readings and viewings and will surely repeat this one!

I'm on a Jane Austen kick now and when I go to my extensive DVD library to select something to watch (often while I'm wandering around HubPages), - I very often select one of the four JA stories on DVD in it. I'm re-reading the books, as well. The more I read her, the more remarkable her combination of a creature of her own time and a timeless traveller forward she is. Her sly humour & keen understanding of the human predicament are amazing.

Anyway - I must get "Little Big Man" - and I thank you for the guidance!! Hugs. -

(guy-dance?)


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hiya Spryte. Yes, it's a safe bet the movie will always be a let down from the book, although sometimes not. Steven King movies are often, not always, but often better than the book. You get to the good stuff without having to slog through all the boring parts. I still think you'll like it if you pick it up sometimes, since it's been a long time since you saw it. Speaking of long times... When are you going to start writing again you lazy slacker?

Pcunix, I suspect you in particular will appreciate the delicacy with which Berger handles human dignity. Such an unexpected place to find it, in the mouth of a raunchy old, uneducated feller like Crabb.

Surlyoldcat, yeah, I'm surprised too. Except that, in the 80's I was reading almost exclusively sci-fi and fantasy. But, like I said, that's the upside of coming late this particular literary party... joy! I've got a list of Berger's stuff I'm going to read now.

Austinstar, well, it seems we're trading. I've not heard of that series either (I swear, I am living under a rock... I read "everything" and yet seem to have read nothing. The more I read, the less I have heard of. WTF? lol)

Well, De Greek, I will say my first temptation is to LOL, but then, that is such a rip off that it's not as funny as it could be. I just saw some people, Ryankett I think, in the forums the other day saying that it seemed absurd there wasn't a UK and I think Aussie Amazon. The upside is, it's a long book, so for $20 bucks, you get a great romp through the American midwest with a really delightful character. Frankly, in some ways, he's a bit like the character of your novel in his unassuming nature coupled with the ability to whip ass when necessary. :) U'll like him.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

We do have Amazon UK. I buy my books from them. But it would have been defeating the purpose not to buy the book from your site by clicking the link. :-)))))

By the time they transfered the order to the UK branch, I had to mortgage teh house in order to pay for it.

And come ON, now. It's funny! :-)) Especialy when I get your check :-))))


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Nellieanna, see you can enjoy both movie and book, just in the right order. And I'm wayyyy with you on Jane Austen. My personal favorite is Mansfield Park, but I LOVE Emma and P&P too. I learned that a lot of the great mystery writers go to Emma to see how it's done, and so I had to reread that one in the light of finding out WTF they were talking about. Then I saw it clearly. Funny how shining a different light on Austen's work just reveals how much of a total, over-the-top genius she was.

Guy dance, girl dance, any dance with me in it will probably hurt someone. :D


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hmm, those guys made it sound like there wasn't a UK Amazon capsule... or else they were saying it that they lost business because of that transfer. But, yes, I agree it is funny that you got ripped off. :P Its even funnier to think of you running out to your mailbox each day expecting the check from me. And oh, "it's in the mail" don't you worry about that.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hmm, De Greek, those guys on the forum made it sound like there wasn't a UK Amazon capsule... or else they were saying it that they lost business because of that transfer you are talking about, which is why they want a UK Amazon capsule. But, yes, I agree it is funny that you got ripped off. :P Its even funnier to think of you running out to your mailbox each day expecting the check from me. And oh, "it's in the mail" don't you worry about that.


ACSutliff profile image

ACSutliff 5 years ago

I know what you mean about selling something, or not selling something. Congrats on your first! I hope it goes well for you. I will make sure I come back to buy the book here. You have got me very excited to read it!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks, AC. Looks like De Greek might have got one, and possibly Pcunix. Imagine the shock on the people at Amazon's face when they see that finally, two years and change after signing me up, I actually did something that aligned their interests with mine. lol. As I've said in the past, I like capitalism just fine, I just can't get personally excited about doing it. But in this instance, it's worth it, so I don't feel dirty at all.


spryte profile image

spryte 5 years ago from Arizona, USA

Ha! Lazy slacker am I? Well, I snuck one past you yesterday... :PPP I know, I know...you have been busy raking in the dough from Amazon after the DeGreek con and figured that the odds were in your favor that I probably had not written anything (what WERE the chances after all?). However, I have started a new "thing" whereupon I haul my laptop out to the backyard every Friday after work and try to write something. It was either that or spend another day at the gym...


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

I have watched the movie and read the book. Your summary was great.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yes, you did get one past me. (I miss everything anymore. I keep telling myself I'm going to unfriend everyone I friended those first few months in that frenzy of I'll touch your button if you touch mine thing... but never get to it. I even tried once, but there were old names you just don't see anymore and I didn't want to turn them off, and others I actually like even though I probably wouldn't go read everything that they publish given how spammy it would make my email inbox... so, I just never know who does what. I try to keep up as I can. Will be easier once I'm done with this infernal degree).

Dallas: That's glad to know. I appreciate knowing it wasn't one of those random things that suits my taste and the rest of the world is like, "Uh, okay dude. It wasn't that good." :) I figured them making a movie was at least a nod that I wasn't totally alone.


spryte profile image

spryte 5 years ago from Arizona, USA

Ditto that less degree. Without naming names and showing blatant favoritism (thus allowing everyone the illusion that I'm secretly keeping an eye on them) while I'm answering comments left for me (like once or twice a month...or so) I'll go to the section on hubbers that I follow and look to see what they most recently published. And now you know why my comments on what you've written seem to always come in about two months after you've posted them. :)

Alas...I have no excuse as noble as continuing my higher education. I doubt I would get half as much sympathy as you even if I volunteered to give a personal tour of my Farmtown farm....


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 5 years ago from St. Louis

Well, I not only saw the movie lo those many years ago, I watched it again just recently. Still I think I'll read it (although surely it's best the other way round.) It was a movie and story that impacted me greatly, and Hoffman's performance is one of the greatest in film history, IMHO. You definitely sold me.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Sometimes the movies don't live up to the book. Will have to give this a read!


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 5 years ago from Bishop, Ca

On your recommendation, I will pick up this book. I'm yet another lover of the movie, but have never had the pleasure of reading "Little Big Man."

Thanks for reminding me of such a timeless story.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

$20.00??? I paid 1 cent - well, plus $3.99 "shipping", but still..

I do wish they had it in a digital edition.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

Shades, since you like "Mansfield Park", please note that my nearest town is Mansfield. Just 20 minutes away. So when you come to visit me (flying first class of course, after raking in all those commisions) I shall drive you over there to have a look. Don't bother to send me your check now, just bring the cash when you come over :-)))


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Spryte, all I can say is LOL @ you and Farmville. If I'd known you were so easily amused, I would have added you to my facebook so you could have helped me during my three day addiction to City of Wonders.

Christoph, you'll love it. Just try to shake off what you already know when you read it because, despite how funny it is, it's a very human and awesome piece of art, not quite as simple as the movie made it out to be. You'll see.

Cindyvine, nice to see you. I agree, movies seldom live up to the book. The best movies from books are often the ones where they don't even try, and become their own thing, merely spawned by the book. Trying to recreate 400 pages in 2 hours is destined to fail.

Hi Lorlie. I have to say, Im starting to get a complex. How the hell am I the only person on the planet who just discovered this damn book/movie?

Pcunix, I looked for a digital edition. Was gonna link it too and try to make my fortune on it too. Kind of surprising there isn't one... but then I guess, it is pretty old. Just haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe little resurgences in its popularity like this one will bump it up the list of "to do's" at Amazon or whoever is making them.

De Greek, I'm dead serious when I say I can't think of anything that would be more fun than that. That would kick so much ass. Great company, great scenery and history (real and literary), plus me laughing at your outstretched hand as I drink your beer. Good times.


spryte profile image

spryte 5 years ago from Arizona, USA

You are on FB and you haven't friended me yet????!!! I'm devastated. And by no means am I easily amused...my "farm" is now a six unit megafarm consisting of Spryteville, Spryte Industries, Playa de Spryte, Rancho de Spryte, Fleur de Spryte and Spryte Acres. Between businesses and crops I gross about 3-4 million daily thanks to my excel spreadsheet that has determined the best crop rotation. This is serious stuff!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

LOLOLOLOL I bet it is.

I don't do anything on there, but will happily friend you. I'll email you.


spryte profile image

spryte 5 years ago from Arizona, USA

Request sent :)


mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 5 years ago from Florida

I always hesitate before reading a book review, partly because I had to give so many of them when I was in school and read so many as a teacher. But I trusted you. You didn't disappoint me. I have added the book and the movie to my to-do list. I agree with you that it is always better to read the book before watching the movie.

I hope you make lots of money!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Mysterylady. You do better than me in hesitating on reading a book review. If I'm to be totally honest, I never read them. They are always crap and I never feel the same about a book as the people who write them, which is why I never write them either. LOL. But, with this one, I kinda see why SOME people write them, to share. So, meh, it is what it is. Probably still won't read them. LOL. Although, there are a few people who I suppose I would. You sure scored a hot refresh with the Twain letters.


mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 5 years ago from Florida

Thanks, Shadesbreath. Although I have written three hubs about books, I don't consider any of them to be a book review because I had a different purpose in mind, mainly commenting on censorship. You did not write a typical book review either. Probably that is why I liked your hub.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yeah, that's funny you say that. I was talking to one of the professors at the college about book reviews on Monday. Got me thinking about this hub. I wonder what I would call this, since it's not really a book review even though it is. LOL. It is what it's not. Or else, it's not what it is. Or something.


Underwater Jones 5 years ago

Great. Now I have yet another book to add to my list of books that I probably won't have time to read. Luckily for me, I know the perfect person to borrow it from.


ltfawkes profile image

ltfawkes 5 years ago from NE Ohio

Although I saw the movie when it was in theaters several hundred years ago, when I was but a fetus, I still remember clearly how great it was. Now I'm getting the book. Thanks.

L.T.


bigpinelodgebooks profile image

bigpinelodgebooks 5 years ago

Good job. Maybe I should hire you to sell my books . . .


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

U.J., YOU will love it. You'll have to stand in line though, wifey and two kids are crawling through ahead of you. :P

LT, I'm trying to fathom how that fetus thing worked but everything I can think of shouldn't be written here. You'll like, I'm certain. In fact, it's funny but I was thinking of how cool it would be to do a detective story in that setting with a character of that voice.

Thanks, Bigpine, maybe you should hire me :D. Just make sure you send me manuscripts of stuff that's not coming out for at least eight months... that's about how far behind I am on my list (sigh).


Anaya M. Baker profile image

Anaya M. Baker 5 years ago from North Carolina

Saw the movie but haven't yet read the book. Glad to see another hubber out there who does it for the fun, not the money (or pennies in my case) :).


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Anaya. You're right about that. It's not about the money. Be great if there was somehow money in it, but the writing is the joy. Who knows, maybe someday some agent or publisher will come along and scoop us up and put our stuff in front of the right publishers, eh? Until then...

Thanks for reading and commenting. Read the book if you get time; it's great.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 5 years ago from SE MA

I wanted to thank you again. I rc'd the book yesterday and have read half of it today in between other things. It is indeed an exceptional book and one I will recommend to others.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

That's awesome, PC. I'm glad you are enjoying it. I figured you would, humanist that you are. It almost seems ironic that a guy like Jack Crabb is such an egalitarian, eh?

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