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Butcher's Crossing [PDF] ❤ Butcher's Crossing ✮ John Williams – Buyprobolan50.co.uk Es war um 1870 als Will Andrews der Aussicht auf eine glänzende Karriere und Harvard den Rücken kehrt Beflügelt von der Naturauffassung Ralph W Emersons sucht er im Westen nach einer »ursprünglic Es war um als Will Andrews der Aussicht auf eine glänzende Karriere und Harvard den Rücken kehrt Beflügelt von der Naturauffassung Ralph W Emersons sucht er im Westen nach einer »ursprünglichen Beziehung zur Natur« In Butcher’s Crossing einem kleinen Städtchen in Kansas am Rande von Nirgendwo wimmelt es von rastlosen Männern die das Abenteuer suchen und schnell verdientes Geld ebenso schnell wieder vergeuden Einer von ihnen lockt Andrews mit Geschichten von riesigen Büffelherden die versteckt in einem entlegenen Tal tief in den Colorado Rockies nur eingefangen werden müssten Andrews schließt sich einer Expedition an mit dem Ziel die Tiere aufzuspüren Die Reise ist aufreibend und strapaziös aber am Ende erreichen die Männer einen Ort von paradiesischer Schönheit Doch statt von Ehrfurcht werden sie von Gier ergriffen – und entfesseln eine Tragödie Ein Roman darüber wie man im Leben verliert und was man dabei gewinnt.

  • Hardcover
  • 368 pages
  • Butcher's Crossing
  • John Williams
  • German
  • 20 July 2016
  • 9783423280495

About the Author: John Williams

Librarian Note There is than one author in the GoodReads database with this nameJohn Edward Williams PhD University of Missouri ; MA University of Denver ; BA U of D enlisted in the USAAF early in spending two and a half years as a sergeant in India and Burma His first novel Nothing But the Night was published in and his first volume of poems Th.



10 thoughts on “Butcher's Crossing

  1. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    ”You get born and you nurse on lies and you get weaned on lies and you learn fancier lies at school You live all your life on lies and then maybe when you’re ready to die it comes to you that there’s nothing nothing but yourself and what you could have done Only you ain’t done it because the lies told you there was something else Then you know you could of had the world because you’re the only one that knows the secret; only then it’s too late You’re old”Will Andrews bought into the Manifest Destiny rhetoric of Horace Greeley Go West Young Man The year is 1873 He has three years of education at Harvard and to throw off the yoke he feels settling around his young shoulders he decides to head to Kansas His father a Unitarian Minister gives him the name of a man he knew named McDonald as a person who might be able to help him settle in out west If the father had known what a den of iniuity that most of Western Kansas was at this point he might not have been so encouraging of his son to head West Butcher’s Crossing is a hide town A town that exists only as a central point for Buffalo hunters to bring their hides for sale and to drink and get their ashes hauled McDonald is the buyer of hides and he is buried in paperwork He tries to hire Andrews to help him in the office but Will did not come West to sit behind a desk He asks for directions to a reliable Buffalo hunter At one time there were millions of Buffalo stretching from Canada to Mexico but after decades of slaughter their numbers have greatly diminished By 1873 the large herds numbering in the thousands have been broken up into small pockets of a hundred or less The meat is left to rot and the hides are being sent back East to be made into coats Later the bones of the deceased Buffalo are picked up off the plains and ground into fertilizer Large Mound of Buffalo BonesIt was an eradication of a species on an epic scale The numbers of Buffalo today have come back from the brink of extinction There are about 200000 Buffalo being raised for the parks service and for meat They are such a majestic animal and it truly would have been tragic if they had disappeared forever My Great Grandfather Ashley Joseph Ives in his Buffalo coatAndrews finds Miller and provides the cash to supply one last great Buffalo hunt Miller had seen a large herd numbering nearly 3000 a few years before in a valley in the Colorado mountains It has always been his dream to go back Andrews also meets Francine a prostitute from St Louis who was tired of all the competition in Missouri and liked that she could pick and choose her customers in this small backwater town in Kansas Andrews except for a furtive few moments with a willing cousin has very little experience with women ”He pulled away from her a little to look at her soft heavy body that clung to him like velvet held there of its own nature; there was a serenity on her face almost as if it were asleep; and he felt that she was beautiful He was assailed by the knowledge that others had seen this face as he was seeing it now; that others had kissed her on her wet lips had heard the voice he was hearing had felt the same breath he was feeling upon his own face now They had uickly paid their money and had gone and others had come and others He had uick and irrational image of hundreds of men steadily streaming in and out of a room He turned pulled away from her suddenly dead inside himself”As they journey to Colorado Andrews discovers how unprepared he is to do this much riding and this much work for this many long hours finding himself beyond bone tired so tired he can barely remember who he is ”Day by day the numbness crept upon him until at last the numbness seemed to be himself He felt himself to be like the land without identity or shape; sometimes one of the men would look at him look through him as if he did not exist; and he had to shake his head sharply and move an arm or a leg and glance at it to assure himself that he was visible”They find the BuffaloThey kill the BuffaloThey reduce a herd of 3000 down to a few hundred I was rooting for the Buffalo I wanted a stampede or any intervention that would wreak vengeance upon the hunters for their greed Buffaloes can reach speeds of 35mph ”At night when the two of them rode wearily out of the valley to the small red orange glow that marked their camp in the darkness they found Miller slouched darkly and inertly before the fire; except for his eyes he was as still and lifeless as one of the buffalo he had killed Miller had even stopped washing of his face the black powder that collected there during his firing; now the powder smoke seemed a permanent part of his skin ingrained there a black mask that defined the hot glaring brilliance of his eyes”I know people who hunt and I know people who kill There are those that go out to hunt for a specific purpose and there are those that go out to kill anything that is moving I’ve walked along the river that flows through my family property after people have been through there shooting suirrels birds and rabbits not to eat them but just for the sport of it Everything is silent a condemnation of our failed stewardship colors the air There is something inherently missing in people who choose to treat life this way I used to hunt with my friends and family and then I shot my first deer soon after turning 15 and that was my last time I walked up to the dying deer hidden by the grass He had looked so large when he had stared across the field at me and in death looked so tenderly small sprawled on the ground The stain was larger than the gain I sold my rifleTo keep a herd from running away you have to kill their leader first ”The buffalo passed their wounded leader and ran beyond him some three hundred yards where their running gradually spent itself and where they stood milling uneasily about The old bull stood alone behind them his massive head sunk below his hump; his tail twitched once or twice and he shook his head He turned around several times as another animal might have done before sleeping and finally stood facing the two men who were than two hundred yards away from him He took three steps toward them and paused again Then stiffly he fell on his side his legs straight out from his belly The legs jerked and then he was stillThat bull had fought off all his competitors He’d won the right to inseminate and pass along his bloodline to the next generation He stood between his herd and every threat that nature could throw at him ”The old bull carried thick scars on his sides and flanks that could be seen even at a great distance” A bullet fired from a man two hundred yards away that he couldn’t even see exploded through his chest cavity punching through both his lungs drowning him with his own blood and he didn’t even get a chance to fight The hunting party stayed too long in the mountains greed overrides common sense and nature comes calling Many trials and tribulations await the less than heroic characters that populate this novel John Williams is a wonderful writer His book Stoner is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time so despite this being a subject matter that I find particularly distasteful the writing was superb This is a epic western with all the grandeur of inspiring descriptions of the landscape and the wonderful character sketches of the rough and tumble people who for a time made their living on the plains of Kansas They cleared the land for the farmers and the ranchers that were coming close behind them My Great great Grandfather Thomas Newton Keeten came to Kansas in the 1880s so he was part of the migration of farmers who settled after the near eradication of the Buffalo and the Indians had been “pacified” He broke the sod built a house helped form the Methodist church that I was baptized in and is buried in the cemetery among the bones of the Buffalo If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

  2. Cecily Cecily says:

    Why read a historical novel about a privileged Harvard dropout who wants to find himself by going on a buffalo hunt? 1 It's by John Williams who wrote one of my three favourite novels Stoner which I reviewed HERE as well as his masterpiece Augustus which I reviewed HERE2 Hunting is not what it's really about probably like Moby Dick?3 It was a good follow on from Cold Mountain which I reviewed HERE two totally different US landscape based stories set only a few years apartWhat This Is and Is Not• This is a road movie without the road the car or the film cameras• It's a Western without cows cowboys or indians native Americans• It's a character based story but the main characters don't speak or move because they’re the landscape and weather• It's about big beasts big wilderness big ambitions some big characters but it often focuses on the minutest details of how things looks sound and feel see uotes near the end• It’s about uests and dreams of meaning for one; of wealth for another; aspects have a mythical air – but harsh reality dominates and it's not the standard American Dream of wealth success fame power• It's a coming of age story or bildungsroman except that the end of the journey seems like the beginning of Will's growing up • It's about life finding purpose in it as well as basic survival but there's bloody death and butcheryIf it seems a slightly surprising subject for a uiet professor of literature to write about his wife explains that he lived in the West loved the landscape and liked camping He didn't hunt buffalo See this interview with Nancy Gardner Williams HERELandscape“He believed there was a subtle magnetism in nature which if he unconsciously yielded to it would direct him aright”I often seek uiet landscapes for solace thinking escape preferably woodland I like to listen and touch I’m not brave or reckless enough to go anywhere really wild and although I eat meat I’m no hunter Nevertheless I can relate to underlying theme of this story than I expectedWill Andrews heads west not to make his fortune but to find meaning in his life The landscape uickly has a profound effect though it doesn’t really clarify things for him He longs for the distant mountains but “did not know precisely what hunger or thirst they would assuage” How many of us long vaguely for something without being sure how or if it will fix things?After only a month away from Boston he barely remembers home which seems “in a very distant time The image would not stay with him Unreal it thinned like brown fog” He uickly feels at home in the tiny settlement of Butcher’s Crossing but yearns to go further into the wilderness in “a hint of the distant horizon” he sees “his own undiscovered nature”As he travels he comes to identify with his surroundings “He felt himself to be like the land without identity or shape” He has “the feeling that he was being absorbed” and “promised a richness and a fulfilment for which he had no name” After only a few weeks “He had been here in the high valley for all of that part of his life that mattered He could not think of himself outside of where he was” Is this peace or an unhealthy form of disassociation?But what’s it all for? When they eventually leave the valley after much hardship Will “felt vaguely that he would be leaving something behind something that might have been precious to him had he been able to know what it was” This thwarting of uncertain ambitions this lack of resolution reminded me of StonerFaith Religion RitualDoes everyone need faith in something? I’m not sure I don’t think I have faith in anything much but that’s the suggestion here Charley Hoge the waggon driver has a simple but profound faith in the words of his dog eared Bible and a fair amount of faith in Miller the experienced buffalo hunter Miller’s faith is also in Miller his vast experience of the beasts and their environment Schneider the skinner has faith in his own experience so it’s no surprise that he and Miller don’t always agree McDonald the hide trader has hope of future prosperity when the railroad comes through town Will is the faithless one the son of a preacher who pressed Emerson than God on his son That is surely why Will now seeks answers in the wilderness and why “the reality of their journey lay in the routine detail a ritual and meaningless as it was repeated but a ritual which nevertheless gave his life the only shape it now had”There is also a ritualistic aspect to the hunting killing and skinning “a rhythm in Miller’s slaughter Like a dance a thunderous minuet created by the wildness that surrounded it” Does that make it somehow sacred or profane and greedy?If my Biblical knowledge were closer to Charley’s than Will’s I’d probably spot but wilderness is significant in the Christian story and just as Genesis has a six day creation Miller’s preparation for the journey is six days as it the first leg of it after which they are literally off the beaten trackI’m not sure if it’s the author’s intention but you could easily sermonise along the lines of the perils of chasing material gain versus the importance of searching for deeper truthTransformationFrom the most ancient myths and stories physical journeys have paralleled personal journeys of transformation That is true here – not just of Will but even the characters who are used to venturing out for weeks on endThere are the obvious physical transformations from weeks in the saddle then the hard labour of hunting and skinning etc but the psychological changes are greatest and most profound As things get tougher each man has to wrestle his own demons as well as the other men and the conditions in which they’re living travelling and hopefully surviving physically and mentally“He thought at times that he as moving into a new body or into a real body that had lain hidden beneath unreal layers of softness and whiteness and smoothness” Later these feelings are echoed when he loses his virginity SurvivalIf you like survival stories there’s plenty here They travel in uncharted territory where only one of them has been before and that was ten years earlier They have supplies but need to make them last and can’t ever go too far from water The terrain and weather are always a risk as is the greed of trying to get just a few hidesSeeing this Through Other EyesSome books are so deep or strange they inspire hugely varied and very creative reviews This is in some ways a very simple story but I was struck by the variety of my friends' reviews they are almost all 4 or 5 but the themes and ideas the pick out are remarkably diverse I think that indicates how much depth there is beneath the surfaceI think this could make a wonderful film but only in the rights hands It needs to focus on careful shots of the landscape rather than wild west clichés enormous vistas as well as careful light highlighting details close up Stephen Poliakoff would be perfect though in 2010 Sam Mendes was reported to be adapting it He's made some excellent films but I'm not sure I'd want to see his version of thisDescriptions of Minute DetailsThis is also a notable feature of his first disowned novel Nothing But The Night HERE• “He became aware that his hands were tightly clenched; the tips of his fingers slipped in the moisture of his palms• “Flat lines of sweat ran through the glinting beads of moisture that stood out on his forehead and ran into his tangled eyebrows”• “He noticed the minute beads of sweat that stood out distinctly above her full lip and caught the sunlight like tiny crystals”• “The rich buffalo grass changed its color throughout the day; in the morning in the pinkish rays of the early sun it was nearly gray; in the yellow light of the midmorning sun it was a brilliant green; at noon it took on a bluish cast; in the afternoon in the intensity of the sun at a distance the blades lost their individual character and through the green showed a distinct cast of yellow so that when a light breeze whipped across a living color seemed to run through the grass to disappear and reappear from moment to moment In the evening after the sun had gone down the grass took on a purplish hue as if it absorbed all the light from the sky and would not give it back”• “When he inserted the rod into the breech of the barrel the hot metal hissed and the drops of water that got on the outside of the barrel danced for a moment on the blued metal and disappeared”• “He heard nothing save the soft whistling of the wind around his ears which were beginning to tingle from the coolness The southern reaches of the valley were softening in a faint mist that was coming down from the mountains the sunlit white vapor twisted and coiled upon itself before a thrusting wind that was not felt on the ground here in the valley”• “The mountainside was a riot of varied shade and hue He thought that if he listened he could hear the sound of growth the fragrant air spiced with the odor of crushed pine needles and musty from the slow decay that worked upward from the earth”Other uotes• “It was a freedom and a goodness a hope and a vigor that he perceived to underlie all the familiar things of his life which were not free or good or hopeful or vigorous What he sought was the source and preserver of his world a world which seemed to turn ever in fear away from its source”• “She was a presence which assuaged a need in him that he barely knew he had until the need was met”• “Caught in the ugliness of sleep defenceless in the innocence of sleep” he “had never seen a part of her that he was seeing now”• “It wasn’t you it was me” Published in 1960Williams' Four Novels ComparedSee the end of my review of his first disowned novel Nothing But The Night HERE

  3. Dolors Dolors says:

    Williams’ biggest achievement in this novel is that there isn’t an ounce of overblown characterization in the diverging life perspectives that populate Butcher's Crossing an emerging town in the Great Plains of the old west In spite of the bison hunters the dusty brothel with the purring prostitute the inexperienced city boy Will Andrews from Boston and the drunkard who nurses his whiskey with a mucky Bible and prayerful gibberish this is not the predictable Western the reader might anticipate Clichés are exploited to serve the story not employed to construct it An omniscient narrator delves deep into the psychological dimension of the characters who grope in the darkness of their beings in search of answers to uestions not even formulated In spite of their disparate temperaments the four men share the common bond of confronting their insignificance in relation to the impassive grandeur of the natural world Contrasted experience mental strength and resilience prove to be useless when nature serves as mirror to the men’s obsessions ignored fears and misconceptions a mirror that reflects their most savage selves William's prose is unsparing brutal jagged There isn't a trace of sentimentality in the crude lyricism of his sparsely constructed sentences yet one will detect something deeply touching in the icy narrative voice that plucks the petals one after another slow and steady of Will's blossoming innocence Or is it immaturity? Driven by his need to fill the empty void that is festering inside him he escapes the viciousness of civilization to experience a moment of self revelation embraced by the purity of Mother Nature What he finds instead terrifies his tender trusting disposition An alien murderous drive built on numbing detachment absurd carnage gratuitous suffering When Will's journey comes to an end he emerges as a different person his restlessness has dissipated and a sobering calmness has taken possession of his being The idealistic youth has been substituted for a man who finally accepts he cannot escape himself a man who feels comfortable with his emptiness like the reader has grown used to hearing the unwritten echo of silence and to appreciate the chilly texture of the color whiteThis is an unorthodox bildungsroman than a Western and John Williams discovers that Ace up his sleeve at a carefully studied pace The claustrophobic sensation that emanates from his writing could easily be compared to the one provoked by the infinity of open space that of frosty snow covering the earth and night and day becoming an unbearable succession of blinding darkness and blinding whiteness and the maddening impression of being locked in the small boundaries of our diminutive suffocating consciousness But whose consciousness? What is hidden underneath the characters’ frenzy to tame the wild to put down the unconuerable but the projection of the “American Spirit”?Will’s infantile desire to experience a sort of epiphanic oneness with Nature is the story of a young country ruling history that is seeking to reaffirm its ethos by fighting its foe mindless of the conseuences heedless of the fact that what remains after massive butchery is the putrid stench of blank stares and vacant eyed slaughterersSo yes many might consider this book a Western; but I insist it might easily be something else uite something else indeed

  4. Zoeytron Zoeytron says:

    The bright flare of a match the creaking of saddle leather and the mournful lowing of the oxen The smell of scorched coffee permeates the air joining the stink of buffalo hunters too long on the trail Later the confusion of the herd is rampant amidst the air made hazy and heavy by gun smoke The force of nature takes its toll as it always will The horror of the elements and the sheer beautyI searched for this book based solely on the fact that the author is the man who penned Stoner Ended up finding a copy at an out of state library courtesy of Mobius After reading I had to stifle a snort at the tag on the spine of the book It sports a label categorizing it as a Western and topped with a picture of a cowboy hat This novel is so much The author is a veritable virtuoso with his deceptively simple writing

  5. Lynne King Lynne King says:

    Andrews dropped to his hands and knees and swung his head from side to side like a wounded animal “My God” he said thickly “My God my God” “A whole winter’s work” Miller said in a flat dead voice “It took just about two minutes” “Andrews raised his head wildly and got to his feet “Schneider” he said “Schneider We’ve got to ” “Miller put his hand on his shoulder “Take it easy boy Won’t do no good to worry about Schneider” I went to bed last night still thinking about this remarkable book I put it on the bedside table and I vaguely recall thinking about buffalo as I slowly slid into the lost world of dreams I awoke at 3 am and was so wide awake in fact that I made myself a black coffee with honey slowly opened the doors to the terrace and stood there looking at the Pyrenean mountain range My much beloved mountains but one that I would soon leave Time was relentlessly moving on Thoughts of this book like a stampede of horses took over my mind I didn’t want to let go and only wished to remain on this mesmerizing carousel moving at death defying speed while a kaleidoscope of exuisite and yet horrifying images flashed by All the elements were present superimposed with the colours white and red It was surrealisticThis isn’t just a story about a young man Will Andrews who leaves Harvard to go west and in fact to find himself but it is also about all aspects of nature and how it has such a profound and important place in our everyday existence And the reason why Andrews was taking this trip in 1873 was not because of buffalo which were really in vogue at that time but because he had become very influenced at college by a lecture given by Ralph Waldo Emerson This would prove to be a divine calling in ways than one He believed and had believed for a long time – that there was a subtle magnetism in nature; which if he unconsciously yielded to it would direct him aright not indifferent to the way he walked But he felt that only during the few days that he had been in Butcher’s Crossing had nature been so purely presented to him that its power of compulsion was sufficiently strong to strike through his will his habit and his idea He turned west his back toward Butcher’s Crossing and the town and cities that lay eastward beyond it; he walked past the clump of cottonwoods toward the river he had not seen but which had assumed in his mind the proportions of a vast boundary that lay between himself and the wildness and freedom that his instinct soughtI really don’t believe that Andrews knew what he was letting himself in for when he headed west in 1873 He had money in his pocket and in no time after his arrival at Butcher’s Crossing a small Kansas town in the back of beyond he had met Mr McDonald who bought and sold buffalo hides Andrews’ father had given him a letter of introduction to McDonald as he knew him in Boston through the church He thought perhaps that Andrews could help McDonald out in his business This isn’t for Andrews though and his whole purpose of being there is to get out into the country and so he’s told to contact Miller a buffalo hunter He also met Francine a prostitute who teaches him a thing or two and he sees her again upon his returnSo the upshot is that with Andrew’s finance Miller agrees to lead an expedition to the mountain country in the Colorado territory where he was convinced buffalo were to be found Fred Schneider comes as the skinner and Miller’s religious sidekick Charley Hoge will be driving the wagon with a team of oxen and will be the camp manSo this epic journey begins We are involved here with four individuals who are all so different and the clash of personalities soon begins when they cannot find water The attention to detail here is remarkable They then get lost but finally find the hidden valley with five thousand buffaloI was however surprised with the ease with which Miller shot them Very few stampedes and I was hoping at one stage that perhaps he would be injured in one of them I really felt for the buffalo The detail about skinning of the animals just seemed to slip into the fabric of the book as if it were a normal daily occurrence It had a dreamlike uality to itThis was meant to be a short trip but Miller seemed to turn into an individual who was possessed and wanted to shoot the entire herd Such slaughter Due to this the men are delayed and nature steps in with all her majestic glory They end up being snowed in for eight months However this certainly wasn’t a boring life regardless of this being a case of survival with all of its hardships Recriminations begin to fly from Schneider and even the bible loving Hoge starts complaining The latter had recently been taking to the bottle and his bible readings were becoming and freuentBut upon their journey back to Butcher’s Crossing the fast flowing river decides to take and take it did What an incredible episode hereThe consummate beauty of Williams’ exuisite writing flows continuously throughout this workIn essence this is a relatively simple story for a western I expected cowboys and Indians for some obscure reason and there was only one reference made to IndiansNevertheless “Butcher's Crossing” is very much the Wild West although a west on the brink of change The railroad is coming it is said and there are fewer and fewer buffalo about and the few Indians left are not worth bothering with Still all the familiar elements remain the rough hewn men the choice in the bar of either beer or gut rot whiskey and the hooker with the heart of goldThis is a splendid book and I love it as I do Stoner These two books are perfect I’ve never come across this before and to see how due to Williams’ style of writing we have here a western of such exceptional uality that it will no doubt stay around for a long time And the next book for me? Augustus of course I have ordered it and I should imagine that I will soon be reading my third perfect book

  6. Howard Howard says:

    John Williams wrote four novels None of them however sold many copies during his lifetime I remember some years ago seeing and scanning stories about John Williams with headlines such as “The Best Writer You Never Heard Of” or something similar And that certainly applied to me I had never heard of him and I couldn’t read his books because they were out of print In fact although there were critics who praised his work his books sold few copies before disappearing – literally in some cases into the trash bin of historyHe received his greatest but fleeting publicity when his epistolary novel set in ancient Rome Augustus won the National Book Award in 1973 But it didn’t sell many copies eitherFast forward to 2013A dramatic change occurred when the New York Review of Books NYRB re issued Stoner a novel about a uiet unassuming and in many ways forgettable professor teaching literature at the University of Missouri which had originally been published in 1965 Suddenly everyone had heard of John Williams at least those who read books He had become an overnight success – almost a half century after he had written the book and almost two decades after his deathA year later NYRB re issued Augustus However these were not the first Williams novels to be re issued by NYRB The first was Butcher’s Crossing originally published in 1960 and re issued by NYRB in 2007 It had not attracted the readership that Stoner did six years later but it benefited from the popularity of that novel even to the point that Butcher’s Crossing is now in development as a movieThe town of Butcher’s Crossing is a rag tag collection of shacks and shanties located on the Kansas prairie In the late 1870’s its primary commercial activity is the collection and shipment of buffalo hides to the east Will Andrews a young Bostonian imbued with the teachings of Emerson and Thoreau drops out of Harvard College and travels west in a uest for – well for something that he can’t uite explain but obviously includes a search for self In some ways he pursues a course opposite to that of Stoner; while Stoner deserted nature the farm for academia Andrews deserts academia for natureEventually because he wants to take part in a buffalo hunt and because he has some money Andrews agrees to bankroll a hunt led by an experienced hunter named Miller To assist the enterprise Miller hires Charley Hoge a one handed whiskey swilling Bible thumper to serve as teamster and camp cook and Schneider an experienced skinner Young Andrews main job will be to assist Schneider even though he knows nothing about skinning animals but is expected to learnI’m not going to divulge any of the plot because I don’t want to be guilty of spoilers and because it’s too damn difficult to do anyway But I will tell you that the passage across the arid western Kansas and eastern Colorado plains almost ends the hunt even before the hunters arrive in the Colorado Rockies where Miller is certain a huge buffalo herd will be found in a valley that he visited years before The hunters find the herd but they tarry too long in the Rockies and have to spend the winter there Winter in the Rockies means snow – a lot of it – and as a result the hunters find themselves engaging in another battle of survival against the forces of natureJust as it is impossible to explain in a brief summary why Stoner is such a great novel so it is with Butcher’s Crossing It is a western novel No that’s not right It is a novel set in the west Despite the fact that the story is populated by many stock characters – even the prostitute with the reuisite heart of gold – they are overcome by a pared down austere but clear and vivid prose that contains no gimmicks or grammatical games Joanne Greenberg who is best known for her book I Never Promised You a Rose Garden knew Williams and admired his talent long before most of the rest of us even had a clue She was uoted as saying that Williams “wrote like a Shaker would ski – without a wasted motion” Perfect; I wish I had thought of thatAnyone looking to read a traditional western in the mainstream of the genre needs to look elsewhere This is a book that shares in common with Melville’s Moby Dick than anything ever written by Louis L’Amour If on the other hand you are an admirer of Cormac McCarthy than this book would likely appeal to you Butcher’s Crossing is a novel that turns upside down the expectations of the genre – and goes to war with a century of American triumphalism a century of rejuvenation through violence a century of senseless slaughter – John Plotz The Guardian The finest western ever written – Oakley Hall author of Warlock ‘The West’ never existed It’s a dream of ‘the East’ – John Williams

  7. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    A Holocaust of Hides He could hardly recall now the passion that had drawn him to this room and this flesh as if by a subtle magnetism; nor could he recall the force of that other passion which had impelled him halfway across a continent into a wilderness where he had dreamed he could find as in a vision his unalterable self Almost without regret he could admit now the vanity from which those passions had sprung view spoilerIt was that nothingness of which McDonald had spoken back in the sleeping house as he stood beneath the lantern that flickered weakly against the darkness; it was the bright blue emptiness of Charley's Hoge's stare into which he had glimpsed and of which he had tried to tell Francine; it was the contemptuous look that Schneider had given the river just before the hoof had blamed his face; it was the blind enduring set of Miller's face before the white drive of the storm in the mountains; it was the hollow glint in Charley Hoge's eyes when Charley Hoge turned from the dying fire to follow Miller into the night; it was the open despair that ripped McDonald's face into a lived mask during his frenzied pursuit of Miller in the holocaust of the hides; it was what he saw now in Francine's sleeping face that sagged inertly on her pillow hide spoiler

  8. Ted Ted says:

    he believed and had believed for a long time that there was a subtle magnetism in nature which if he unconsciously yielded to it would direct him aright 48 Now Andrews could see the herd clearly Against the pale yellow green of the grass the dark umber of the buffalo stood out sharply Many were lying at ease upon the soft valley grass; those were mere humps like dark rocks without identity or shape some were grazing lightly others stood unmoving they huge furry heads slumped between their forelegs which were so matted with long dark fur that their shapes could not be seen 127 without identity or shape their shapes could not be seen Butcher’s Crossing is usually classified as a “Western” I guess because of its setting in Western Kansas and the mountains of Colorado in the 1870s But this background produces in Williams’ telling a story that has little resemblance to either “traditional” or contemporary western literature from authors like Zane Gray Max Brand Louis L’Amour Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy; or novels such as The Ox Bow Incident or Shane The story has no cowboys almost no Indians no settlers no ranchers no gunfights no sheriffs no banditsSo if you’re in the mood for a “Western” novel a la McMurtry or Cormac look elsewhere You won’t find it hereWhat you will find is a haunting mysterious story of an Easterner who has come to the American West for reasons that are not clear to him It is a short but deep novel unforgettable and maybe somewhat disturbingWill Andrews has left Harvard in his third year with his share of an uncle’s beuest and traveled to the American West in search of a man who his father knew for a time back in Boston a man named McDonald When he manages to track McDonald down in Butcher’s Crossing Kansas McDonald is engaged in a buffalo hide business buying from buffalo hunters and reselling to buffalo robe makers in the east Andrews tells McDonald that his father “admired” him because McDonald was “the only man he ever knew who came out here – who came west and made a life for himself” 18As they talk Andrews paused and let his gaze go past McDonald away from the town beyond the ridge of earth that he imagined was the river bank to the flat yellowish green land that faded into the horizon westward He tried to shape in his mind what he had to say to McDonald What he sought was the source and preserver of his world a world that seemed to turn ever in fear away from its source rather than search it out as the prairie grass around him sent down its fibered roots into the rich dark dampness the Wildness and thereby renewed itself year after year 21But McDonald is simply a stepping stone to the West Andrews has no interest in a job which McDonald offers him he’s searching for something else As he haltingly explains to McDonald “ I came out here to see as much of the country as I can” “I want to get to know it It’s something that I have to do” “I don’t have anything figured out I just want to know about this country” 22 3Besides Andrews and McDonald there are only four other named characters in the novel; Miller the buffalo hunter; Charley Hoge Miller’s sidekick and the hunting party’s wagon driver and cook; Francine an attractive “whore” in Butcher’s Crossing who is in turn attracted to Andrews; and Schneider the final member of the hunting party hired as chief skinner Oh yes and one probably the most important other than Andrews Nature Call her Mother if you wantRalph Waldo Emerson Nature and Transcendentalism Williams has placed two uotations directly following the title page before we see a word of his own writing The first of these saysAt the gates of the forest the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small wise and foolish The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he takes into these precincts Here is sanctity which shames our religions and reality which discredits our heroes Here we find Nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance and judges like a god all men that come to herThe uote is from an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson titled Nature view spoilerSee part XVIII of this PDF hide spoiler

  9. Jessaka Jessaka says:

    A cold wind blew across the prairie when the last buffalo fell a death wind for my people Sitting BullThey came down into valley and the buffalo herds were moving darkly over the land like waves on the ocean The men slowly moved in on them The first shot went to kill the leader of the herd shots would follow My mind stopped The buffalo just stood there in wonder of what was going on and one by one they were killed

  10. Algernon (Darth Anyan) Algernon (Darth Anyan) says:

    One of the joys of reading chaotically picking up books from the TBR stack at the whim of the moment and not according to some master plan is to discover that succesive reads turn out to be related after all The Great Gatsby is concerned with the Great American Dream that success is waiting right around the corner for anyone determined enough to reach for it Butcher's Crossing is about another facet of the Great American Dream the myth of the pristine land a Garden of Eden where Man can go to find beauty peace and dignityWill Andrews is a child of the modern world growing up in Boston around 1870 in a reasonably wealthy family His imagination is fired up by the discourses of Ralph Waldo Emerson and he decides to leave Harvard and strike West not in search of wealth or fame but chasing the meaning of life and spiritual fulfillment At the gate of the forest the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small wise and foolish The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he takes into these precincts Here is sanctity which shames our religions and reality which discredits our heroes Here we find Nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance and judges like a god all men that come to her Emerson His destination is Butcher's Crossing a dusty settlement on the Kansas frontier catering to buffalo hunters The harsh travelling conditions the gruff locals and the dingy derelict houses do little to curb his enthusiasm his eyes ever turning towards the westward prairie He turns down an offer to join in the profitable business of tanning buffalo hides prefering to look out for a guide into the wilderness It was a freedom and a goodness a hope and a vigor that he perceived to underlie all the familiar things of his life which were not free or good or hopeful or vigorous What he sought was the source and preserver of his world a world which seemed to turn ever in fear away from its source rather than search it out as the prairie grass around him sent down its fibered roots into the rich dank dampness the Wildness and thereby renew itself year after year His moderate savings enable him to finance a hunting expedition towards a secret location in the the Colorado mountains a pet project of Miller a lone wolf hunter with a difficult personality but with 20 years experience in the field The team is completed with Miller's one handed partner Charley Hoge a drunken Bible thumper and by a hired hand a professional skinner of a contrarian disposition always grumbling and challenging Miller's leadershipThe novel really takes off once the expedition sets out on the trackless prairie with Williams wonderful prose capturing both the 'true grit' of saddle sores debilitating tiredness thirst mind numbing boredom and the poetry of the boundless vistas the sea like uality of being at the center of the universe and moving in a timeless bubble outside the reality of civilized East Coast Miller is like a force of nature pushing all of them forward mercilessly reading the lay of the land the sun and the winds with consummate skill What is missing in this landscape is the object of the hunt the buffalo has already been hunted to near extinction and is present only as mounds of white bones or the occasional wounded stray Miller's obsession with the herd hidden in his secret mountain valley reminds of Melville and his Captain Ahab chasing another impossible dreamMiller's dream though turns out to be true as the heavy bull driven cart comes at last to the high pass opening into a vision of paradise a veritable Shangri la hidden from covetous eyes as perfect a camping place as I ever encountered on my own mountain treks A long narrow valley flat as the top of a table wound among the mountains Lush grass grew on the bed of the valley and waved gently in the breeze as far as the eye could see A uietness seemed to rise from the valley; it was the uietness the stillness the absolute calm of a land where no human foot had touched Andrews found that despite his exhaustion he was holding his breath; he expelled the air from his lungs as gently as he could so as not to disturb the silence As a sidenote I'm not familiar with the detailed history of the Colorado territories in the XIX century but it seems to me Williams is ignoring completely the Native American angle A single instance of meeting a destitute Indian family scraping a meagre living on the plains makes it seem like the author deliberately ignored their historical presence as outside the scope of his novel he needed a pristine setting in order to make his pointThe promised herd of buffalo is here in great numbers resplendent in their autumn coats well fed on the bountiful grass and as yet unafraid of the danger humans represent Young Andrews education turns to a bloody and gruesome page as the idillic landscape becomes a scene of indiscriminate slaughter and Miller's goal of wiping out the herd completely is revealed as the spirit of the modern world that gets drunk on power and immediate profit without any thought for long term conseuences or preservation of resources 'Drill Baby Drill' Miller's unhinged mind is blind to all appeals at reason and moderation as the gathered skins far outstrip the carrying capacity of their cart Nature or karma strikes back and the expedition is trapped in the high mountain valley by an early snowstormOnce again the writing knocked me down as it describes the struggle for survival and the tensions between the four members of the team the long tedious months of being cooped up in an improvised shelter the lack of even the most basic comforts A weary and disillusioned Andrews comes down in the spring and slowly makes his way back to Butcher's Crossing for a big finale in which the falsity the destructive nature of the American Dream is reaffirmed in an emphatic way Young people' McDonald said contemptuously 'You always think there's something to find out Well there's nothing You get born and you nurse on lies and you get weaned on lies and you learn fancier lies in school You live all your life on lies and then maybe when you're ready to die it comes to you that there's nothing nothing but yourself and what you could have done Only you ain't done it because the lies told you there was something else Then you know you could of had the world because you're the only one that knows the secret; only the it's too late You're too old This is a bleak revelation but I have the feeling a necessary one The lessons have been painful but Andrews is still young and a small hope exists that he will step into his next adventure with his eyes open Being circumspect does not mean giving up altogether At least this is how I like to look at the outcomeI am surprised the novel is not better known it is probably the most literate thoughtful and brutal analysis of the Western myth I've come across since watching Jeremiah Johnson at the Cinemateue I can see how modern writers like Larry McMurtry or Cormac mcCarthy may have been influenced in their approach by this definitely unromantic look at the Frontier

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