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Butcher's Crossing (New York Review Books Classics) [Kindle Edition]

John Williams , Michelle Latiolais
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In his National Book Award–winning novel Augustus, John Williams uncovered the secrets of ancient Rome. With Butcher’s Crossing, his fiercely intelligent, beautifully written western, Williams dismantles the myths of modern America.

It is the 1870s, and Will Andrews, fired up by Emerson to seek “an original relation to nature,” drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes up in Butcher’s Crossing, a small Kansas town on the outskirts of nowhere. Butcher’s Crossing is full of restless men looking for ways to make money and ways to waste it. Before long Andrews strikes up a friendship with one of them, a man who regales Andrews with tales of immense herds of buffalo, ready for the taking, hidden away in a beautiful valley deep in the Colorado Rockies. He convinces Andrews to join in an expedition to track the animals down. The journey out is grueling, but at the end is a place of paradisal richness. Once there, however, the three men abandon themselves to an orgy of slaughter, so caught up in killing buffalo that they lose all sense of time. Winter soon overtakes them: they are snowed in. Next spring, half-insane with cabin fever, cold, and hunger, they stagger back to Butcher’s Crossing to find a world as irremediably changed as they have been.


Product Description

Review

'One of the finest books about the elusive nature of the West ever written...It's a graceful and brutal story of isolated men gone haywire.'

(Time Out New York)

'Harsh and relentless yet muted in tone, Butcher's Crossing paved the way for Cormac McCarthy. It was perhaps the first and best revisionist western.'

(The New York Times Book Review)

'One of the finest novels of the West ever to come out of the West.'

(The Denver Post)

'This story about the hunt of one of the last great buffalo herds "becomes a young man's search for the integrity of his own being...The characters are defined, the events lively, the place, the smells, the sounds right. And the prose is superb, a rarity in writing about the west. More, John Williams.'

(The Chicago Tribune)

'John Williams's unsparing novels express a highly qualified though resilient optimism about our ability to salvage something of value from life's impossible conditions. Along with the necessary isolation of the artist, he conveys the sobering if startled recognition--perhaps with his own career in mind--of the transitory triumph of art.'

(Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

The author of Stoner delivers something completely different but equally unique, skewering romantic notions of the Wild West with a brilliant, brutal tale of buffalo hunters that reverberates with understated power.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 462 KB
  • Print Length: 299 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1590171985
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (30 Mar. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004FGMQUW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,177 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Western Heart of Darkness 17 April 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a tremendous book. It concerns the journey of a young man from the "civilised" east into the "uncivilised" west in search of something unconfined and new, and the impact of what he discovers there in the savagery of the buffalo hunt.
Several other books came to mind while I was reading this including "The Heart of Darkness," "The Old Man and The Sea," and very definitely "Moby Dick."
If you are looking for a conventional western tale, this book may not be for you. There is no gun-slinging; there are no Indians or sheriffs - instead there is life on the edge of things, without morality or restraint, and the hypnotic fascination of slaughter and destruction. And the changes on the individual characters that elemental experience creates, as man rampages through the diminishing wilderness.
But while there may be allegory, there is also a riveting story of hardship and survival that is as gripping as it is realistic. We get the smell of the west, or the stench rather, and the burn of the sun and the brutality of the hard country and the snow, and - as the doomed buffalo are skinned - the peeling away of the outer layers of civilisation to show the raw meat underneath.
The book is divided into three parts: preparations to head out for the wild country; the finding, the killing and the marooned months of the buffalo hunt itself; and the return to the town of Butcher's Crossing, from which the hunting party set out.
Each part has its own strength and brilliance. The final part is apocalyptic and the very end masterly.
I had never heard of John Williams before happily stumbling across the kindle edition of this book. For me it had almost everything you look for in a novel: a strong story, sharp characterizations, pace, fine writing, and that other revelatory layer beneath it all that stays in the mind for a long, long time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a 'Western'... 19 Dec. 2013
By J. H. Bretts VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stoner has been highly (excessively?) praised but perhaps Butcher's Crossing is even better. Reading it reminded me of Joseph Conrad's comment: "My task is to make you hear, to make you feel,and, above all, to make you see. That is all, and it is everything." John Williams manages to do all of these things brilliantly in Butcher's Crossing. For example, by the end of the book you will have experienced what its like to be lost on the trail without any water, to be stuck in the middle of a huge snowstorm that goes on for days and to be in other extreme situations. The writing has a vivid hallucinogenic quality at times. But it is much more than a 'Western'. Like Stoner and Williams' 'historical' novel Augustus, Williams manages to combine great story-telling with a serious exploration of the individual's relationship with society and nature.Strongly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
John William's `Butcher's Crossing' is a perfect blend of storytelling, character study, moral challenge and social comment. The intense interaction between the determined, capable, dominant, driven Miller, the naïve young graduate investor Andrews, the caustic hired hand Schneider, and the religious wino Charley Hoge is fascinating and pertinent. Williams sets this seamlessly into the wider scenario of the characters of a small town population, nature's hostility in blistering desert, snow blizzard and raging river torrent, casual pointless exploitation of the buffalo herds, and the overwhelming vagaries of the market capable of trouncing all best human endeavour. Here is the primeval human condition and human context which Boston's distant civilisation only thinly masks. It's a masterly novel, worthy of a place in the canon of classical literature.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Butcher's Crossing - John Williams 28 July 2013
By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I don't know what it is about "westerns", but I love them. I suppose I am just catching-on to whatever the appeal has always been of the wide-open-space, the landscape, the roughness and beauty, the nobility of endeavour, the forging of a new land amid savagery. The romance of it all. And as with all my favourite romances, there're equal parts tragedy. This tells the story of a somewhat naive but experience-hungry youngster who goes in search of life out west, real life out west. He is led to bankroll a buffalo hunt, and a group of four men troop off over the landscape to endure its deprivations in the hope of bringing back glory, and in the young man's case even just experience.

Buthcher's Crossing is a wonderful novel. I haven't read a book this good in some time. Above all, whatever else it is or may be, it's beautiful. A gentle savage tender lump-in-the-throat piece of art. John Williams is a fabulous writer - he reminds me of William Maxwell slightly. He writes simply, but also languorously. It's perfect writing, and it's hard to place why. There's nothing else to it other than the earnest telling of a tale, its tragedies and glories held in the same tonal regard. It speaks volumes about the human spirit in adversity, the lengths of human hope, of delusion, of the nobility of the pioneer spirit. It's, of course, a very sad book at times, but it has that kind of cumulative power that simple yet relentlessly told books have - they drive on into you, regardless.

Now, I know there's a lot of noise about William's Stoner, which is another wonderful book (shame he wrote so few; perfect though each is), but Butcher's Crossing is in my view even a tiny bit better. He writes the kinds of books that dig down into the soil of the human soul and bring up pure gorgeous water.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful book, possibly even better than Stoner. I wish John Williams had written more books!
Published 1 day ago by Slarksov
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I enjoyed the writing. I felt the story was rather contrived.
Published 9 days ago by Mrs Julie Kadleck
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This is a very absorbing read and an insight into life in bygone America.
Published 28 days ago by Lintobo
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyable and memorable
Published 1 month ago by gary jones
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed a book about buffalo hunting
Who'd have thunk it? I enjoyed a book about buffalo hunting. OK, it isn't just that, it is a character study too. Read more
Published 1 month ago by The Honey Monster
4.0 out of 5 stars a young mans journey into a hard and cruel world in the west open...
A revealig acount of the wild west as it was in reality. Not a romantic dream but a cruel reality
Published 1 month ago by yorkist
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly realised, but lacking the inner life.
If you are reading this novel because of Williams's now famous 'Stoner' don't expect the same kind of book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Richard Brown
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Dismal
Published 2 months ago by ken
4.0 out of 5 stars A young man grows up
To include this book in the genre of "western" novels, is to demean the book. This a book which wrestles with the meaning of life and the struggle of a young man to come to... Read more
Published 2 months ago by millhall
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book enjoyed by both my husband and myself
a wonderful book enjoyed by both my husband and myself. well written with descriptions of the countryside that bring it to life.
Published 3 months ago by ann heritage
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