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Butcher's Crossing

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  2,672 ratings  ·  383 reviews

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

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Published July 12th 2010 by Blackstone Audio, Inc. (first published 1960)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”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
… 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 slum
Penned in 1960, John Williams' BUTCHER'S CROSSING anticipates and in many ways eclipses Cormac McCarthy's western works because it not only nails the rapacious greed of the buffalo hunters it describes, it reaches for more abstract and troubling themes that go to the very essence of man and his place in the world.

Will Andrews, the protagonist, is but a 23-year-old preacher's son when he shows up in Butcher's Crossing with money and a dream in hand. He winds up payrolling a buffalo hunt to a hidd
Sarah Funke
Anything that's prefaced by a quotation from Melville's The Confidence Man is ok by me. This one, by the author of Stoner, owes a lot more to Melville than that -- from Transcendental meditations to musings on "white," not to mention the monomania of a man on a hunt (like Gatsby, come to think of it, but broader, and deeper, and colder/wetter, and hotter/thirstier). This is Moby-Dick in the early American west, with many, many buffalo instead of a single whale, and set very very much on land. Wi ...more
John 'Stoner' Williams' bleak and unromantic portrait of the great myth of the Western Frontier is a hard edged read designed to repulse the reader with its content whilst wallowing in the majesty of nature. It's no mean feat to capture such beauty and such horror in one novel with equal skill and success, in doing so Williams confirms his place in my heart as one the greats of American letters, and if justice is served all of us who care for the careful consideration of how one word follows ano ...more

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 Gaarden of Eden where Man
When you’re in the midst of things, it’s easy to lose perspective.


“All around him was whiteness which glittered with needlelike points of fire. He gasped at the immensity of what he saw. (…) He blinked and cupped his hands over his eyes; but even upon his closed lids he saw only whiteness. A small inarticulate cry came from his lips; he felt that he had no weight in the whiteness, and for a moment he did not know whether he remained upright or whether he had gone down into the snow.”

Will Andrew
Pubblicato nel 1960, cinque anni prima di “Stoner”, e ambientato intorno al 1870 tra Kansas e Colorado, tra prateria e montagne, “Butcher’s Crossing” è il romanzo western per antonomasia, il paradigma del western, tutto quello che ci si aspetta da un western.
In più c’è l’enorme talento di questo scrittore, che non spreca parole e neppure le lesina, le cerca con precisione che rimane nascosta, le organizza con perizia e pacatezza, con potere evocativo e incredibile capacità descri
Justin Evans
Williams was happy with three of his novels, and wrote four overall. There's more good writing, intellectual effort, emotional depth and social commentary in any one of the three approved novels than in all 18897874006836789308746739489764 items of Rothdike's oeuvre. And yet, this is relegated to cultish status, while even your great-great-grandma Ethel has probably read at least one of the Rabbit series.

My general grumpiness aside, this is amazing. The best comparison is Flaubert, another auth
André van Dijk
De hele Stoner-hype overgeslagen te hebben is wellicht het beste uitgangspunt om Butcher's Crossing van John Williams onbevooroordeeld te kunnen lezen. De jonge onervaren Will Andrews gaat met een idealistisch horizonverlangen én met een drietal doorgewinterde bizonjagers op jacht naar een in de bergen verborgen kudde. We schrijven eind 19e eeuw, de prairie is nog vol bizons – geen indiaan meer te bekennen – die massaal afgeslacht worden voor hun veelgevraagde huiden. Het wordt een haast epische ...more
I enjoyed this, it is a wonderfully written western novel with well drawn characters and stirring descriptions of the wilderness when the Buffalo ran free and the land was rich and untouched.

This is the story of a young and untried Will Andrews who arrives at Butcher's Crossing in search of enlightenment. He gets more than he bargained for when he funds a expedition with the taciturn Miller in search of the rapidly decliining Buffalo.

After a gruelling and harrowing trip they track their quarry
Certainly well-crafted, literary, but I found it tedious. The topic - nearly 200 pages of a buffalo hunt -- does not appeal to me, and the character and setting, likewise. This is a comment on me, and my own limited tastes and lack of patience at my advancing age -- and others may well like this more. I absolutely adored Stoner - and felt that this one (Butcher) lacked the emotional depth and nuance and subtlty of the other. I doubt the Augustus book will appeal to me, not after reading Yourcena ...more
Evoluzione della fuga

Il libro racconta che c’è questo tale, Cristopher McCandless che una volta laureatosi, prende zaino e voglia di vivere e si inoltra nella selvaggia natura in cerca di libertà e se del caso, di se stesso.

Ah no, scusate, quello è il protagonista di Into the wild ( o Terre estreme per i lettori più avanti di me, che superficialona, ho visto solo il film). Il parallelismo però c’è. Anche nel libro di Williams c’è un eroe solitario che tenta una via di fuga dall’ordinary world.
Genadeloos en weergaloos. Sommige passages zijn te afgrijselijk om door te blijven lezen, bij een film zou ik wegkijken. Maar het is ook daarom een prachtig boek. Alle woorden en zinnen hebben evenveel gewicht. De personages komen subtiel haarscherp uit de verf. En het landschap waardoor de jagers op hun doel afreizen is voelbaar, evenals de droogte, de kou en de andere ontberingen die de mannen moeten doorstaan. Stoner vond ik al geweldig, en na het lezen van Butcher's Crossing ben ik Williams ...more
Miquel Codony
[Navidad no es la mejor época para leer a una velocidad decente xD]

Mi segundo contacto con John Williams y una lectura inmejorable para inaugurar 2014. Debo decir que este es uno de aquellos libros que solo cobra sentido (pleno sentido) una vez completo. He disfrutado cada momento de su lectura, pero durante buena parte de ella me parecía "solo" notable. En cambio, una vez terminado mi valoración no podía ser más positiva.

Un libro a releer para comprobar como hemos cambiado entre lecturas ("la
Grande capacità descrittiva e narrativa. Tiene avvinti a un paesaggio, ad uno stato d'animo, ad un'azione, anche quando è qualcosa di lontano dal nostro mondo o di prevedibile o sottoritmo.
Un gran narratore, Williams. Stoner è un'altra cosa, per temi e profondità di coinvolgimento, ma anche qua il non detto, l'implicito e la capacità di farti fermare ad interrogarti è da ottima letteratura.
Vale assolutamente la lettura.
Aug 22, 2011 Judy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Judy by: Anne Reach
Will Andrews arrives in the small, prairie town of Butcher's Crossing with an inheritance and a compulsion to see the unspoiled western frontier. He signs on with Miller, a veteran buffalo hunter, who longs to return to the Colorado country where he found a beautiful canyon hemming in a large herd of buffalo several years earlier. Amidst the slaughter of thousands of buffalo, Andrews begins to contemplate what his life is about.

The strength of this book is its depiction of the West, its people i
John Williams, el autor de la extraordinaria ‘Stoner’, nos ofrece en ‘Butcher’s Crossing’ una historia sencilla y meticulosa, con la sensibilidad y erudición que le son tan características. La historia transcurre a finales del siglo XIX, y tiene como protagonista a Will Andrews, un joven universitario, algo apocado, que decide abandonar su vida en la ciudad en busca de experiencias en la naturaleza. Para ello, viaja hasta Butcher’s Crossing, un pueblo perdido de Arkansas dedicado a la caza de bú ...more
Rebecca Foster
A subtle literary Western (originally published in 1960) by John Williams, the author of last year’s rediscovered classic and surprise bestseller, Stoner.

As the novel opens in the 1870s, main character Will Andrews has traded Harvard for adventures out west. He is still in his early twenties when he steps off the stagecoach in the small town of Butcher’s Crossing. A buffalo hide trader leads him to Miller, a man willing to lead a hunting expedition to the Colorado territory. Miller’s lust for hi
John Williams is a serious man. This is the second book of his I've read, and it seems in both books he approaches some big life questions straight on, completely linearly and with almost no humor. This is dangerous and difficult to do, like walking the line between cliche/sentimentality and deep truth. But I admire him for trying. I think he succeeded in Stoner, mostly because it was so bold in its recounting of facts that it never fell into cliche. The whole book seemed very macro-level. But i ...more
C’è un momento nella vita in cui ci si scontra con il limite, il dolore, il fallimento. In cui si comprende di non essere al centro del mondo, e che le tracce che lasceremo saranno forse ben poca cosa, una impronta transitoria e lieve, come le orme che lasciamo sul terreno durante una nevicata.
E’ il momento in cui la vanitas e il non-senso ci si manifestano apertamente, senza veli.
La vertigine di questo risveglio, che non esclude l’accettazione della sfida che il vivere comporta, è al centro d
Ubik 2.0
La valle incantata dei bisonti

Non è l’unico aspetto rilevante del romanzo, ma ciò che ha maggiormente colpito la mia immaginazione è stata la capacità di rendere il rapporto con la natura selvaggia in modo così efficace ed affascinante, soprattutto nella parte centrale della storia, dalla partenza da Butcher’s Crossing in cerca della valle dei bisonti fino al ritorno.

Nelle attività, i gesti, le sensazioni dei quattro cacciatori si percepiscono in modo palpabile la sete, il freddo, l’umidità, gli
Above all other things, Butcher's Crossing is procedural. I hesitate to call it descriptive; the novel takes a meditative approach to its characters and the environs, but its attempts at metaphor and poetic imagery fall short, and some descriptions lack specificity. While Williams' prose oftentimes has a cinematic quality that transcends its simplistic clarity, it often veers into vagueness:

“The roaring was intense and hollow in his ears; he looked down from the
point of land that dipped and s
Ergens rond 1870 verlaat een jonge man, Will Andrews, de collegezalen in Boston om de beklemming te ontvluchten die hij ervaart. Hij trekt naar het Westen, naar Kansas op zoek naar de vrije natuur, de bron van het leven. Naar zichzelf. Klassieke thema’s .

‘Hij geloofde dat er in de natuur een nauwelijks merkbare magnetische kracht bestond, die hem, als hij zich er onbewust voor openstelde, de juiste kant op zou sturen. Al meende hij dat de natuur zich pas in de korte tijd dat hij in Butcher’s Cro
Oct 30, 2009 Steve rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Steve by: Rose Gowen
Shelves: fiction, westerns
Butcher’s Crossing is a pretty good western, with loads of frontier life details, such as how to make bullets, kill buffalo, skin buffalo, eat buffalo, etc. These details (along with some wonderful descriptions of landscapes), are the strength of the book, but they are delivered in such a deliberate way that I have to wonder if less would of meant more. The story is about young Harvard (Andrews) type seeking the real West – whatever that is. He bankrolls a buffalo hunt with some standard stock c ...more
William Andrews, verso la fine dell’ottocento, lascia Harvard al terzo anno di università e, con il denaro ereditato da uno zio, decide di viaggiare verso Ovest. Lo attendono sconfinate pianure e tanta polvere, che si alza al passaggio del treno o dei cavalli. La sua destinazione è Butcher's Crossing, posto sperduto nel Kansas: poche baracche, cacciatori senza scrupoli, prostitute, un materasso sporco in un piccolo albergo. William cerca un tale McDonald, commerciante di pelli vecchio amico del ...more
Magnificent and disturbing “western” taking place in late 1870’s Kansas and Colorado, where an east coast college boy transcendentalist takes Ralph waldo’s advice and gets himself to the country, where he soon is disabused of the romanticism (well, not TOO soon) of the great outdoors and gets in a scheme with a buffalo hunter to try and make a big bunch of cash on buffalo hides as the hunter knows where there is a remnant herd way up in a high valley in Colorado. So off they go and sure enough t ...more
How did I not know about this book until so recently? It's about as close as I can imagine to being the perfect novel for me. Young Will Andrews follows his inner yearnings to discover the West, the wilderness, and his self in the early 1870's. After dropping out of Harvard University he makes his way to the small Kansas town of Butcher's Crossing, where nearby buffalo herds have attracted scores of hunters hoping to cash in on the slaughter and the high demand and high prices for buffalo hides. ...more
This book, for me, was more about the writing than anything else. I read it about three years ago, after finishing one of Williams’ other books, Stoner. Stoner is a powerful book but very different, both in tone and content, from Butcher’s Crossing. What the books share, however, is a master-craftsman’s concern with language. Williams eliminates all superfluities from his narratives, and while his novels occasionally adopt a philosophical tone, such instances generally serve an indirect and tenu ...more
A memorable book. One could reasonably make a comparison to Cormac McCarthy, not because of the writing style (they are opposites, and each good in their own way) but because of the vast and awe-inspiring setting. Man vs. Nature, in capital letters.
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NYRB Classics: Butcher's Crossing, by John Williams 6 38 Jul 01, 2014 05:17PM  
La Stamberga dei ...: Butcher's Crossing di John Edward Williams 1 2 Apr 16, 2013 12:15PM  
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John Edward Williams was born on August 29, 1922, in Clarksville, Texas, near the Red River east of Paris, Texas and brought up in Texas. His grandparents were farmers; his stepfather was a janitor in a post office. After flunking out of junior college and holding various positions with newspapers and radio stations in the Southwest, Williams enlisted in the USAAF early in 1942, spending two and a ...more
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“Young people," McDonald said contemptuously. "You always think there's something to find out."

"Yes, sir," Andrews said.

"Well, there's nothing," McDonald said. "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 then it's too late. You're too old."

"No," Andrews said. A vague terror crept from the darkness that surrounded them, and tightened his voice. "That's not the way it is."

"You ain't learned, then," McDonald said. "You ain't learned yet. . . .”
“It came to him that he had turned away from the buffalo not because of a womanish nausea at blood and stench and spilling gut; it came to him that he had sickened and turned away because of his shock at seeing the buffalo, a few moments before proud and noble and full of the dignity of life, now stark and helpless, a length of inert meat, divested of itself, or his notion of its self, swinging grotesquely, mockingly, before him. It was not itself; or it was not that self that he had imagined it to be. That self was murdered; and in that murder he had felt the destruction of something within him, and he had not been able to face it. So he had turned away.” 9 likes
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