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Berger, Thomas Louis


Born: July 20, 1924

Ohio connection: Birth

Thomas Louis Berger, deemed "one of the 20th century's most important writers in the English-speaking world" by the Times Literary Supplement, was born on July 20, 1924, in Cincinnati, Ohio. This satiric and darkly funny novelist is revered by writers and critics everywhere who, like Thomas Edwards of the The New York Times Book Review, cannot understand "why Thomas Berger isn't more generally recognized as one of the masters of contemporary American fiction." Berger, a 1948 graduate of the University of Cincinnati, worked as a librarian at Columbia University and for The New York Times Index and Popular Science Monthly before publishing his first novel, Crazy in Berlin, in 1958. The novel is the first of four that, while following "mock-hero" and Everyman Carlo Reinhart from adolescence through middle age, also chronicles suburban American life and the struggles of the common man in post-World-War-II America. The Reinhart saga continues in Reinhart in Love (1962), Vital Parts (1970) and Reinhart's Women (1981). Berger is best known for writing Little Big Man (1964), "the best novel ever written about the American west" according to The New York Times Book Review critic R.V. Cassill. The novel, whose movie was also a hit at the box office in 1970, details the prairie life of another "mock-hero" and Everyman, 111-year-old Jack Crabb, the only white survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn. Berger's more recent novels include Best Friends (2003), about two completely different men who are life-long best friends and the wife that comes between them, and Adventures of the Artificial Woman (2004), about a man who, dissatisfied with modern American women, decides to build himself the perfect mate.

Dial fellowship, 1962; Western Heritage Award, and Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award, National Institute of Arts and Letters, both 1965, for Little Big Man; Ohioana Book Award, 1982, for Reinhart's Women; Pulitzer prize nomination, 1984, for The Feud; Litt.D., Long Island University, 1986; honorary member, Phi Alpha Theta.