Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Berger, Thomas

(1924-2014) US writer best-known as author of several novels telling the story of a representative 20th-century man named Reinhart – beginning with Crazy in Berlin (1958) – and for Little Big Man (1964). The latter, which takes the format of the Western as a kind of Template upon which to inscribe an experiment in Satire, prefigures his fantasy, all of which similarly estranges the reader from the devices and venues being exploited. Regiment of Women (1973), because its role-reversal premise receives no real explanation, could be read as a fantasy exploration of a world in which male and female roles are reversed; but the tenor of the tale is sf-like. Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel (1978) initially gives the impression that it comprises a fairly straightforward rendering of the Matter of Britain and its protagonists in an undemanding Twice-Told style, but the text as a whole – with its deadpan reiterations of traditional material that are simultaneously devastating and full of desiderium – is rather like Tennyson's Idylls of the King (1870) recited word-for-word by Woody Allen. Nowhere (1985) similarly deconstructs Ruritania by transforming a typical venue into a Wonderland utopia; but the modest ambition of the original Ruritanian mode generates a strangely bland text. Being Invisible (1987) is similarly lacking in underlying bite, though some sharp ironies do attend the newly invisible (> Invisibility) protagonist's attempts either to exploit his condition (which is that of Everyman in chinks of the world machine) or to do good. Of greater interest is Changing the Past (1989), whose protagonist is allowed to return through Time and to gain various goals he longed for; inevitably, each Answered Prayer proves double-edged, for the weight of the world redresses any lost Balance. No matter how ingenious the Wish, mortals remain in Bondage, a fate which also afflicts the protagonists of Granted Wishes (coll 1984 chap), a collection of answered-prayer tales with some fantasy elements. [JC]

Thomas Louis Berger


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.