July 22, 2014

LITTLE BIG MAN IS HIS BEST NOVEL...:

Thomas Berger, author of Little Big Man, dies aged 89 (Associated Press,  22 July 2014)

Admirers regarded Berger as unique and underappreciated, a comic moralist attuned to the American past and present. "Berger's books are accessible and funny and immerse you in the permanent strangeness of his language and attitude, perhaps best encapsulated by Berger's own self-definition as a 'voyeur of copulating words,'" Jonathan Lethem wrote in a 2012 essay.

Berger was born in Cincinnati, the son of a public school business manager and a housewife. He was a dreamer, seeking out new worlds on the nearest bookshelf. His favourite works included the legends of King Arthur and, since he was born close enough to the 19th century to hear first-hand accounts, histories of the Battle of Little Big Horn.

"Very early in life," he once said, "I discovered that for me reality was too often either dull or obnoxious, and while I did play all the popular games that employ a ball, lower hooks into the water, and, especially fire guns, I preferred the pleasure of the imagination to those of experience, and I read incessantly."

Berger served in the army from 1943 to 1946 and used some of his experiences in Germany for his debut novel, Crazy in Berlin. He was an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, then a graduate student at Columbia University.

At a workshop at the New School for Social Research, Berger met such fellow students as Jack Kerouac, Mario Puzo and William Styron and a painter, Jeanne Redpath, who became his wife. He wrote short stories in his 20s but disliked the art form, believing he needed more space "to create my alternative reality".

Little Big Man was his third novel. As he told American Heritage magazine, he began the book in 1962 with "the intention of comprising in one man's personal story all the themes of the Old West that have since become legendary".

Jack Crabb was based on a fictional character, the blowhard Kit Carson in William Saroyan's play The Time of Your Life.

...but Neighbors is his funniest.  Bad movie, good book.





Posted by at July 22, 2014 7:42 PM
  
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