For the uninitiated, I recommend starting with Little Big Man, followed by the Carlo Reinhart tetralogy -- Crazy in Berlin (1958), Reinhart in Love (1962), Vital Parts (1970) and Reinhart’s Women (1981). Move on to Sneaky People (1975), The Feud (1983) and Meeting Evil (1992), and then graze contentedly at will among the other fifteen titles. Berger speaks for many of us when he tells David Madden in an interview collected in Critical Essays on Thomas Berger (1995):
“As a child I always loved to read and exercise my imagination. I have a vague memory of wanting to grow up to be a foreign correspondent, but that had to do almost entirely with wearing a trench coat, and I think that before I got too old I understood the difference between journalism and fiction and came to prefer the latter as being more likely to serve the truth: I mean, of course, using Pascal’s distinction, the truth of the heart and not of the reason, which is to say the serious truth as opposed to that of expedience and vulgarity. I regard myself as a teller of tales that are intended primarily to enchant or at least entertain myself. Only by living in the imagination can I successfully pretend I am a human being.”
Berger was born in one America’s great cities, Cincinnati, on this date, July 20, in 1924. Happy ninetieth birthday, Thomas Berger.