Epic novel by Thomas Berger, and a surprisingly good movie directed
by Arthur Penn
and starring Dustin Hoffman
Spanning the history of the American West, the story tells how Jack Crabb's life flipped back and forth between the societies of Indians and White Men, culminating with Custer's Last Stand. It's a funny book -- a Forrest Gump of the old West -- but poignant, too. The beauty of the book lies in the contrasts between Crabb's two worlds.
One very interesting contrast, if I'm remembering it correctly: Every time Crabb returns to his Indian tribe, they recognize him and behave as if he had never left, as if he'd stepped aside to sneeze during a conversation. But he never sees any of his white companions a second time, with the exception of Custer; every trip back to "civilization" brings him into the arms of strangers and never reunites him with friends. (The movie destroyed this contrast completely by introducing recurring white characters, which bummed me out.)
Berger's sequel, The Return of Little Big Man, was published in March 1999.