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There is one quality in an audiobook that transcends all others, regardless of author, genre, subject, etc. That is when the voice in your ears surpasses any voice you could imagine in your head. Little Big Man is a tall tale almost entirely spun by former Old West frontiersman Jack Crabb as a 111-year-old man, so the narration is crucial, and Scott Sowers just totally, absolutely nails it, maintaining the idiosyncratic voice of his character for nearly 20 hours.
Jack Crabb was there. Everywhere. Raised by the Cheyenne after his father's wagon train was overrun, reclaimed by a white family as a teen, and in subsequent years: shopkeeper, muleskinner, trader, buffalo hunter, card sharp, gunslinger, prospector, dandy, town drunk, teamster, and ultimately scout. He returns several times to the Cheyenne to resume his role as legendary warrior Little Big Man. Along the way, he runs into people he met before, like General Custer, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody, et.al. In the end, he is the only white man to survive the battle of Little Bighorn.
This is revisionist history. Published in 1964, Little Big Man was one of the first books about the West to take the point of view of the Indians, to show their lifestyle in a sympathetic light, explaining practices that would seem savage and primitive to white settlers. To the credit of Thomas Berger, he shows all viewpoints in all their complexity, but clearly emphasizes that one side, the native side, took the worst of it as the relentless tide of American expansionism overran their lands. He also takes some time to reexamine the image of women, blacks and homosexuals -- way ahead of his time on all fronts
This is one my favorite books (first read in the early 80s) by one of my favorite authors (read every one of his books), and the 1970 film version with Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb is one of my favorite movies. I will argue witth anyone who says otherwise that all three -- book, movie, author -- are among underrated or unheralded classics that deserve more attention. So yeah, I'm biased. But the narrator could have soured it. Sowers enhances it so that I can now add one of my all-time favorite audiobooks to my list.
A word of caution. Written in the early 60s, before the term political correctness entered our lexicon, the language can be challenging. No profanity and no slurs directed at blacks or homosexuals, but plenty of cringeworthy descriptions and namecalling of Native Americans, as would befit someone like Jack who grew up with that language. No one can walk away from this book believing that the name of Washington's NFL team is anything but the worst kind of racial slur (unless they change to their logo to a red potato).
29 of 33 people found this review helpful
This is the story of Jack Crabb who's Cheyenne name is Little Big Man. It is told as a flashback of Jack as an 111yo man. It is an enjoyable recounting of the plains region circa 1850-1876 culminating in the battle of the Little Big Horn and Custer's last stand. The first half of the book is outstanding mainly focusing on Jack's time as a boy living with the Cheyenne after being adopted by the tribe. The descriptions of native american customs and lifestyle is realistically portrayed and quite interesting. Much is said about how native american ways and philosophy differs from "the whites". I always find this interesting to read about. The second half of the book is good but less interesting, sometimes being a tad long winded. There is a lot about frontier life and the life in early plains cities like St. Louis and Kansas City.
Narrator does an excellent job and gives the story an authentic feel.
5 stars for the first half of the book but 3 stars for the second half.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful