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.

One of the best line from the movie occurs when Grandfather and Little Big Man are standing on a cliff overlooking the land and Grandfather lies down preparing to leave this world. A few moments pass, and then it begins to rain.

Grandfather wakes up.

Grandfather: Am I still in this world?
Little Big Man: Yes, Grandfather.
Grandfather: (groans) I was afraid of that. Well, sometimes the magic works, sometimes it does not.

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