Ian Frazier's List of Reasons in 'Great Plains'

A Scrapbook of Styles

Crazy Horse Monument
The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota. (Jean-Marc Giboux/Getty Images)

American writer and humorist Ian Frazier is best known for his short essays in The New Yorker magazine and for his 1989 historical work, Great Plains, in which the following passage appears.

One critic has pointed to this lengthy anaphoric series as evidence of Frazier's "immature and unsophisticated" prose style. Other readers see it as an example of the artful playfulness that characterizes his best work. 

Why I Love Crazy Horse

From Great Plains* by Ian Frazier

Personally, I love Crazy Horse because even the most basic outline of his life shows how great he was; because he remained himself from the moment of his birth to the moment he died; because he knew exactly where he wanted to live, and never left; because he may have surrendered, but he was never defeated in battle; because, although he was killed, even the Army admitted he was never captured; because he was so free that he didn't know what a jail looked like; because at the most desperate moment of his life he only cut Little Big Man on the hand; because, unlike many people all over the world, when he met white men he was not diminished by the encounter; because his dislike of the oncoming civilization was prophetic; because the idea of becoming a farmer apparently never crossed his mind; because he didn't end up in the Dry Tortugas; because he never met the President; because he never rode on a train, slept in a boardinghouse, ate at a table; because he never wore a medal or a top hat or any other thing that white men gave him; because he made sure that his wife was safe before going to where he expected to die; because although Indian agents, among themselves, sometimes referred to Red Cloud as "red" and Spotted Tail as "spot," they never used a diminutive for him; because, deprived of freedom, power, occupation, culture, trapped in a situation where bravery was invisible, he was still brave; because he fought in self-defense, and took no one with him when he died; because, like the rings of Saturn, the carbon atom, and the underwater reef, he belonged to a category of phenomena which our technology had not then advanced far enough to photograph; because no photograph or painting or even sketch of him exists; because he is not the Indian on the nickel, the tobacco pouch, or the apple crate.

Crazy Horse was a slim man of medium height with brown hair hanging below his waist and a scar above his lip. Now, in the mind of each person who imagines him, he looks different.

* Originally published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1989, Great Plains was reprinted in paperback by Granta Books (2006).

Selected Works by Ian Frazier

  • Dating Your Mom, humor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986)
  • Nobody Better, Better Than Nobody, essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986)
  • Great Plains, nonfiction (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989)
  • Family, nonfiction (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994)
  • The Fish's Eye: Essays About Angling and the Outdoors (Picador, 2003)
  • Gone to New York: Adventures in the City, essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005)
  • Lamentations of the Father, essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
  • Travels in Siberia, nonfiction (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)
  • The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days, fiction (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)