Crazy Horse (Penguin Lives) by Larry McMurtry

After reading a short young adult novel on Crazy Horse I was motivated to pull this short biography of Crazy Horse off the shelf and read it. It was an enjoyable and interesting rumination.

McMurtry tries to, but knows it is impossible to really, separate the “man from the myth.” He tries to help the reader understand the limited number of facts involved and the perspectives of many of the historians and writers (personalities) who have tackled the subject.

It is not the type of biography to lay out the basic facts in a straightforward way, but it is an engaging and insightful way to think about this larger than life character.

As with the novel, I was frequently saddened by the tragedy of the American dealings with Native Americans and the disappearance of their way of life.

I agree with Publishers Weekly:

Deceptively brief and seemingly lightweight, this wonderful work effectively cuts through decades of hyperbole. McMurtry illuminates the enigma and the myth of Crazy Horse to present him as a man?no more, no less. He has stripped away the incessant Noble Savage image that persists in many serious works about Native Americans, even to this day. He gently jabs earlier biographers who based entire volumes on little or no evidence of the events in Crazy Horse’s life. “Still I am not writing this book because I think I know what Crazy Horse did much less what he thought on more than a few occasions in his life; I’m writing it because I have some notions about what he meant to his people in his lifetime, and also what he has come to mean to generations of Sioux in our century and even our time.”

Crazy Horse Book Cover Crazy Horse
Penguin Lives
Larry McMurtry
Biography & Autobiography
Penguin
1999
Hardback
148

Legends cloud the life of Crazy Horse, a seminal figure in American history but an enigma even to his own people in his own day. This biography looks back across more than one hundred and twenty years at the life and death of this great Sioux warrior who became a reluctant leader at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. With his uncanny gift for understanding the human psyche, Larry McMurtry animates the character of this remarkable figure, whose betrayal by white representatives of the U.S. government was a tragic turning point in the history of the West. A mythic figure puzzled over by generations of historians, Crazy Horse emerges from McMurtry's sensitive portrait as the poignant hero of a long-since-vanished epoch.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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