Butchers Crossing

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Adam Foulds. Written with a sober perfection of style that suits its subject — the elegantly factual glowing with a careful lyricism — Stoner depicts the life of a diligent Midwestern literary academic that is often one of quiet desperation but is periodically shot through with luminous moments of insight and love. Executed with the same fastidious observation and restraint, it is nevertheless a very different book, a bleak and rugged western adventure set in the s that follows Will Andrews, an idealistic young Harvard drop-out, keen to commune with Nature.

He pursues this impulse on a buffalo hunt in the Colorado Rockies, where experiences of hardship and violence are so prolonged and extreme as to make all such thoughts seem vaporous. The novel is prefaced by two superb epigraphs. The two canonical sources are indicative: Williams intends this novel to be set firmly in the American tradition. The constituent parts of the myth are sometimes worryingly familiar — the scary two-horse town, the adventure-hardened types, the tender-hearted prostitute — but the expertise of the writing vivifies the stock characters and set pieces of which the novel is composed.

In the mountains, the scenes are exceptionally vivid. All of this action lasts long enough to put the reader in the same entranced state of brainless physical absorption that Will Andrews experiences.

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With money and guns and a small party of fractious men, there is room for the kind of game theory machinations of conflicting self-interest that drive The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but Williams does not exploit them. Instead, fortunes turn on the unpredictable power of the natural world and the punishing opacity of the free market.

The novel culminates beautifully in action and stingingly in thought with the expression of the only philosophical consolation it has to offer: a kind of grand stoicism in the face of an uncaring universe. Both are tough-minded and disillusioned but susceptible to beauty and human warmth. They are also supremely well-written and built to last. Douglas Murray. Ross Clark.

Butcher’s Crossing is not at all like Stoner — but it’s just as superbly written | The Spectator

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Michelle Latiolais Introduction. 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. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Butcher's Crossing , please sign up. Is, after all Williams idolizing or rather criticizing the "gone west" way of life?

Margaret I don't think he's doing either. I think he's simply telling a story and because of the details of the time and place, the end of the buffalo, the …more I don't think he's doing either. I think he's simply telling a story and because of the details of the time and place, the end of the buffalo, the beginning of the end of the West as his main character had known and imagined as a child, and confronted in its reality as an adult, that story reveals the full horror of the greed and exploitation that was wrought on the West.

But the character can see beyond his experience and continue to move on when the events in the book come to their end. He is a witness and we witness through him. See 1 question about Butcher's Crossing…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Feb 11, Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it Shelves: the-old-west , nyrb. The year is 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 iniquity that most of Western Kansas was at this point he might not have been so encouraging of his son to head West. 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.

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Joe Penhall to Adapt BUTCHER’S CROSSING for Director Sam Mendes and Focus Features

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 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 Bones It 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 , 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. Andrews finds Miller and provides the cash to supply one last great Buffalo hunt. Miller had seen a large herd numbering nearly 3, a few years before in a valley in the Colorado mountains.

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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.


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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 quickly paid their money, and had gone, and others had come, and others. He had quick and irrational image of hundreds of men, steadily streaming in and out of a room.

Butcher's Crossing: an appreciation of John Williams's perfect anti-western

He turned, pulled away from her, suddenly dead inside 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 kill the Buffalo. They reduce a herd of 3, 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.

Desillusionierung & Western - John Williams ~ Butcher's Crossing

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. 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.

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.

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