Butcher's Crossing

Butcher's Crossing


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590171981
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 01/16/2007
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 130,761
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

John Williams (1922—1994) was born in Texas. He taught for many years at the University of Denver, where he was head of the creative writing program. Williams won the 1973 National Book Award in fiction for Augustus. His novel Stoner is also published as an NYRB Classic.

Michelle Latiolais is an associate professor of English at the UC Irvine. Her novel, Even Now, won a Gold Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California. She has recently published fiction and essays in The Antioch Review, Santa Monica Review, and ZYZZYVA.

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Butcher's Crossing 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and interesting, and the underlying message was very powerful. It was great, up until the end, which was very strange.
BPetronio on LibraryThing 10 months ago
It's hard to find un-romanticized Westerns.
OmieWise on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This is a stupendous novel. The descriptions, the life described, and the deep sense of place are all equally affecting. One of the strangest aspects of the novel is the sense of claustrophobia amidst the huge landscape. I read this over a year ago, but I think of it very often.
CBJames on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Butcher's Crossing is the story of Will Andrews. With his head full of Emersonian ideas about man's "original relation to nature," he leaves Harvard before completing his degree and heads west where he hopes to find some sort of work with a distant family friend, Mr. McDonald, in the town of Butcher's Crossing, Kansas. In the 1870's, when the novel is set, Butcher's Crossing is a town built on the buffalo hide boom. Will rejects Mr. McDonald's offer to join him in a land speculation scheme and soon falls under the wing of experienced buffalo hunter Mr. Miller, who is looking for someone to fund an expedition to find one of the last full size buffalo herds in the Rockies. Andrews agrees to provide the needed funds and becomes one of four expedition members.By the 1870's what was wild about the American West was just about gone. There is no mention of Native Americans in Butcher's Crossing because there are few left on the plains by this point. The railroad is on its way west bringing civilization with it. The smart money says leave trapping and hunting behind, buy land as close to the railroad as possible if you want to get rich. The buffalo are in their final days as well. The hunters have been travelling farther and farther afield only to return with fewer and fewer low quality hides. Miller hopes to find one last herd as big as those he found when he first came to the plains when the herds covered the horizon.Buffalo hides awaiting shipment, Dodge City, Kansas.I could argue that all great westerns are set at just this moment in time, when the wild is about to give way to the civilized. The last great cattle drive, the last stand of the native tribes, the end of the gunslinger era. Shane is about a cattle rancher's attempts to keep farmers out of his valley. True Grit is about a frontiersman's final days of usefulness. As soon as Americans started moving west, the west was finished. If the Jacksonian ideal of one man standing on his own against the wild and all those around him ever existed, it only existed as a doomed figure, trying to keep the end at bay as long as possible. His days were always numbered. His greatest misfortune was that he would live to see the end.Butcher's Crossing exists firmly within this tradition of the wild west's final days. It's drowning in it. Miller looking for one last great hunt. McDonald trying to buy up all the land he can for all the profit he can make when the railroad arrives. The impending arrival of the railroad itself. Will Andrew's desire to experience the wilderness before it's gone altogether. Experience it he does. In the book's centerpiece scene, the buffalo hunt, at the exact heart of the novel.After a while Andrews began to perceive a rhythm in Miller's slaughter. First, with a deliberate slow movement that was a tightening of the arm muscles, a steadying of his head, and a slow squeeze of his hand, Miller would fire his rifle; then quickly he would eject the still-smoking cartridge and reload; he would study the animal he had shot, and if he saw that it was cleanly hit, his eyes would search among the circling herd for a buffalo that seemed particularly restless; after a few seconds, the wounded animal would stagger and crash to the ground; and then he would shoot again. The whole business seemed to Andrews like a dance, a thunderous minuet created by the wildness that surrounded it.One man, Miller, kills almost every member of the last great buffalo herd, leaving the hidden Rocky Mountain valley where he found it dotted with skinned corpses, like a hellish landscape by Hieronymus Bosch. Then, like Ernest Hemingway's Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, Miller must get his 'catch' back to town where he can sell it. Butcher's Crossing is a classic western. It does not break any molds, nor does it offer an ironic, modern take on the events it describes. There's even the familiar young man at the side of an older mentor/idol as there is in just about ev
Patrick311 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
While nowhere near as good as Williams's transcendent Stoner, Butcher's Crossing is a fairly riveting story of one man's journey into the West. Will Andrews, Harvard dropout, travels to the dusty Kansas town of Butcher's Crossing in search of his true self, which he'd previously only found in the woods around Cambridge. In Butcher's Crossing, he seeks out an acquaintance of his father's, McDonald, who runs a trading company, buying and selling buffalo hides. McDonald can tell that Andrews has come to Butcher's Crossing for something other than a business opportunity -- he wants to go out on a hunt -- so he recommends that he talk to a man named Miller. Miller has an idea for a hunt that will put all other hunts to shame. He wants to make an expedition deep into the Colorado Territory, where he once discovered a hidden valley filled with thousands upon thousands of buffalo. After remarkably little consideration, Andrews agrees to fund the expedition and travel along as a skinner.The book is full of rich, evocative descriptions of rolling plains, rocky mountains, intense heat and bitter, horrible cold. It's also rife with scenes of slaughter and, yes, butchering. You can practically smell the entrails steaming in the summer sun. With relatively sparse dialog, Williams manages to create several very vivid characters, including the bumbling, haunted Charley Hoge, my favorite in the book.I rarely read Westerns (Might this be my first? I think it is.), so I can't comment on how this either conforms to or deviates from the conventions of the genre. I found the descriptions of how the men lived, of how they survived without all that I enjoy in my daily life (like plumbing and a bed), to be fascinating. And the story -- a lassic quest, really -- offered plenty of action. Indeed, there's a sequence that's as tense and pact with danger as the movie Wages of Fear. In the end, I found the philosophy of the book to be somewhat opaque, and it's for this that I'm giving the book three stars. If you are looking for a great Western, you'll definitely find it in Butcher's Crossing. But if you want to read Williams at his best, I recommend Stoner instead.
RodV on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I didn't enjoy this as much as Williams' other novels, Stoner and Augustus, which were both two of my absolute favorite books I read this year, but it was nonetheless a very good read despite some slow going for me through the first half. It was really hard for me to get engaged in this book at first for some reason, but that was probably more my fault than the book's; I just don't think I was in the mood for a western when I started it, but I was definitely craving more Williams, so that kept me going. Once the characters found themselves in true jeopardy, snowbound in the mountains, that was where the rubber hit the road for me, and from that point on the rest was gripping. Even through the slow parts, though, Williams' fine prose sustains you. For those looking for a revisionist western/back-to-nature/survival novel that is also a well written piece of literature, you can't go wrong here. I could see it making a fine film adaptation, which it is slated to be in 2013. I look forward to that, if only for the reason that it will garner some more attention for this under-recognized novelist.
finishworksbeforeyouwhine More than 1 year ago
This book was outstanding. I'm sorry all some people got out of it was buffalo hunting. There is a beginning, and an end. If it werent for the thourough, well researched body, what was at stake and inevitably lost would be meaningless. John Williams' novels are perfect for patient readers.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book wasn't deathly boring or awful but I found it was quite pointless. The part when they go on the hunt was terribly boring and I have never not wanted to read a book so much, do yourself a favor and don't buy the book unless you like buffalo hunts.