Little Big Man
By Thomas Berger
Narrated by David Aaron Baker and Scott Sowers;
with an Essay by Larry McMurty narrated by Henry Strozier
Ⓟ 2014, Recorded Books
20 hours, 30 minutes
WESTERN / SATIRE / AMERICAN CLASSIC
This American Classic is a satire which exposes the falseness of the American Old West narrative. The main body of the work is a POV1- narrative from Jack Crabbe, a Zelig-like character who lives alternately amongst white people and the Cheyenne in the 1850s-1870s, a time when the landscape of the country was changing as rapidly as the steam engines could push in and the the government could push the Native Americans out. The story begins with Snell, a mannered and intellectually pretentious man going to see the 111-year old Crabbe in a nursing home. Crabbe, in turn, begins his account when he himself was a young boy and Redskins wipe out the party of pioneers (his family included) he is traveling with. In the course of the his recounting, outrageous claims are made, i.e. Crabbe manages to witness many key events and interact with a number of notable figures of the time; but Berger balances the tongue-in-cheek narrative with keen insight into the nature of man and the events of the time to give the story plausibility, if not in the sum of its parts, and least in the individual happenings. Berger researched this time period, and using original source material such as letters and diaries, constructed this novel to debunk the myth of the era, and to a certain extent he succeeded by incorporating the elements of avarice, filth, and moral equivocation that prevailed. On the other hand, rather than tarnish, the acuteness of the author’s barbs lends a sort of patina to the story by making it more realistic. Analogously, it would be like taking down a statue to discover there are cracks in the base; but nonetheless, the statue is still strong enough to stand.
The narrators were spot-on: David Aaron Baker starts the audiobook off as the effete and gullible interviewer Ralph Fielding Snell; Scott Sowers nails it as Jack Crabbe, undereducated but sharp, performing with a “cowboy” accent throughout his section; And finally, Henry Strozier caps the audiobook with a reading of Larry McMurty’s short essay, a laudatory missive read warmly and convincingly as if McMurty were reading it himself.
BUT, and this is a big “but” the production values were terrible: On Sowers’ section, there were page turns, mouth noises, booth noises, at least one repeating sentence, a couple sections out of order, and overall it didn’t sound as clean as the parts narrated by David Aaron Baker or Henry Strozier.
OTHER: I dnloaded a CD digital copy of Little Big Man (by Thomas Berger
narrated by David Aaron Baker and Scott Sowers; with an Essay by Larry McMurty narrated by Henry Strozier) from Downpour.com. I receive no monies, goods (beyond the audiobook) or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.
Little Big Man (by Thomas Berger; narrated by David Aaron Baker and Scott Sowers; with an Essay by Larry McMurty narrated by Henry Strozier) is a finalist in the 2016 APA Audie Awards in the Classics & Literary Fiction category.
The Armchair Audies is an annual, unofficial event in which audiobook fans each pick a category from the APA Audies Finalists announcement, and listen to each of the 4-6 titles nominated. After listening, and reviewing each of the contenders, the listener(s) picks the winner for his/her selected category. This year, I’m listening to the finalists in the Classics & Literary Fiction category along with The Sleepless Reader.