Reinhart at Rest
July 24, 2014 12:09 PM   Subscribe

RIP Thomas Berger. If you know only one book by Thomas Berger, it's probably Little Big Man, which was made into an Oscar-winning film starring Dustin Hoffman.

You may have also heard of his book Neighbors which was also made into a movie starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd.

Or his novel Meeting Evil most recently made into a film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Luke Wilson.

Or his take on King Arthur with his novel Arthur Rex.

However, you probably didn't know he'd stopped writing five years ago, (sorry, it's behind a pay wall, but the article itself is only .25).

RIP Reinhart.

Here's Jonathan Lethem on Thomas Berger.
posted by Francis7 (19 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
(sorry, it's behind a pay wall, but the article itself is only .25)

Yeah, no, I don't think the National Review is getting my quarter.
posted by dersins at 12:21 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I breathed an audible "ohhh" on reading this. I remember reading all the Renharts I could 10-15 years ago.

posted by benito.strauss at 12:23 PM on July 24, 2014

I cannot overstate how the film Little Big Man opened my eyes up to the ludicrousness of the western culture myth that surrounded my upbringing.

My parents just thought it was funny.

posted by barchan at 12:25 PM on July 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've never been able to decide if Berger's book or the film is the 'better' version of Little Big Man; Dustin Hoffman is perfect as Jack Crabbe, but as usual there's so much more in the book that had to be left out of the movie. And of course, there's the sequel, The Return of Little Big Man.
posted by easily confused at 12:31 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Total coincidence, but after a very strong recommendation I only recently read my first Thomas Berger, The Houseguest (1988) and thought it fantastic (nasty & very funny).

amazon teaser: Chuck Burgoyne is no ordinary houseguest. The Graveses (father Doug; wife Audrey; son Bobby; and daughter-in-law Lydia) have gotten used to his polite manners and gourmet breakfasts. But one morning at the Graveses' summer home, Chuck fails to appear.
When Chuck finally does surface, he is no longer sweet and charming, but rather has become aggressive and arrogant, abusing each family member in turn. Each family member that is, except the fellow outsider, Lydia...

posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:56 PM on July 24, 2014

That movie is awesome. It is where I first heard about the 'Battle' of the Washita, and really portrays a rich and interesting view of native cultures, especially given the time period when it was made.

(I fear I have just inspired some hipster to tell me how awful it really was and misleading and how I should feel bad for liking it.)
posted by norm at 12:58 PM on July 24, 2014

Little Big Man is a sadly overlooked literary classic. It is one of the better books that my husband has read out loud to me (being read to as an adult is a delicious treat), and I treasure the memory of him reading it in character.

Thank you, and RIP, Thomas Berger.
posted by thebrokedown at 1:13 PM on July 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

"May the everywhere spirit have mercy on his soul, and yours, and mine."

posted by Herodios at 1:29 PM on July 24, 2014

"Come out and fight! It is a good day to die! Thank you for making me a human being. Thank You for helping me to become a warrior. Thank You for my victories, and for my defeats. Thank You for my vision, and the blindness in which I saw further. You make all things and direct them in their ways, O Grandfather. And now You have decided the Human Beings will soon walk a road that leads nowhere. I am gonna die now, unless death wants to fight. And I ask You for the last time to grant me my old power to make things happen.

Take care of my son here. See that he doesn't go crazy."

I saw the movie and then read the book and loved both. Do yourself a favor.
posted by vapidave at 1:49 PM on July 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I fear I have just inspired some hipster to tell me how awful it really was and misleading and how I should feel bad for liking it.

This hipster freaking loves that movie and the original book.
posted by maxsparber at 1:57 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by valkane at 3:00 PM on July 24, 2014

I found his 1975 novel Sneaky People in a used bookstore last year, and thought it was great! Therefore,

(Also saw Little Big Man when it came out, but that was a long time ago.) And since nobody else has provided it, Thomas Berger at wikipedia.
posted by Rash at 4:24 PM on July 24, 2014

I went through a Berger phase. He seems to have written (at least) one in every genre.

posted by Obscure Reference at 5:59 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


what vapidave said, and the scene he linked to. That movie and novel changed me, absolutely. I would've been eleven or twelve. I went in one end a wide-eyed believer in all the usual western lies. I came out the other knowing only one thing for sure. Everything I knew was wrong.

Thanks, Mr. Berger.
posted by philip-random at 6:18 PM on July 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only Berger novel I've ever read is A Regiment of Women, and that is one strange freaking book. I read an old copy when I was just a wee trans kid, desperate for anything with a transgender hook. It was really upsetting and confusing.

Briefly, it takes all the stuff that sexist men would say feminists were complaining about in the 1970s, and flips it so all of that stuff happens to men instead. In Berger's dystopian society, men are helpless, ditzy little secretaries (with makeup, boob implants, the works) getting chased around their desks by sneering female bosses with strap-on dongs. It's been forever since I read it, but even as a kid I remember thinking that it was a really angry book with some weird sexual politics. I couldn't really tell if it was supposed to be feminist or anti-feminist or some weird combo of both. Maybe that was the intent. If Berger meant to disturb, he sure worked his magic on me!

It's seems like the kind of book that college kids would be arguing about forever, but I guess it fell into obscurity instead. I've always meant to get back to it and read as an adult and see if it really is as nasty as I recall. (Make no mistake, it's nasty. But I'm old and I've been kicked around now, and maybe it wouldn't disturb me the same way today.) If anybody has a more informed take on the book, I'd love to hear it!

The movie version of Neighbors is a totally underrated gem of dark weirdness. Belushi is weirdly subdued, but Aykroyd makes a great psycho. It really bugged me when that unrelated Seth Rogen movie came out a few months ago with the same title, like the original movie didn't even exist or something. (I never understand why studios do that. Like, why call your movie Crash, when David Cronenberg put out a movie called Crash just a few years earlier? It seems needlessly confusing, and disrespectful to other artists.)

For somebody who only read one Berger novel when I was like 13, I've sure managed to bloviate all over this thread noting his passing. This is one of those comments where you get to the very end and then you realize you probably just should have kept your big yap shut but now you've written all this damn stuff so you say what the hell and click post.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:59 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Meeting Evil, Neighbors, The Houseguest, The Feud, the Villanova books, the Reinhart books, all favorites of mine. I haven't even read Little Big Man yet, but I'm sure I will.

Whether it was intentional or not, he rarely seemed to have been much in the public eye. I don't know anything about him and I don't think I've ever read an interview with him.

I'm going to miss his writing a lot.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:05 PM on July 24, 2014

posted by pt68 at 9:31 PM on July 24, 2014

LBM--one heckuva book and a decent movie

posted by BlueHorse at 10:22 PM on July 24, 2014

I'm a bit apprehensive that people will take my video link of Little Big Man as being emblematic of the movie as a whole. The video link was to a memorable scene late in the movie which was informed by what went before and is both funny and, in context, a relief.

For a book written in 1964 and a movie released in 1970 they were both quite ahead of their time and hilarious and poignant.

[Anyway, please don't let my video link above dissuade you from either the book or movie.]

Again. Do yourself a favor..
posted by vapidave at 3:08 PM on July 25, 2014

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