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Butcher's Crossing

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  4,332 ratings  ·  539 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, red up by Emerson to seek "an original relation to nature," drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes u
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published February 26th 1978 by Gregg Press (first published 1960)
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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…moreI 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. (less)
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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
Sep 25, 2015 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beware of Westerns
Shelves: read-in-2015
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 antici ...more
Lynne King
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 rem
… 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
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 my (joint) favourite novel, Stoner (the other is Titus Groan/Gormenghast).

2. Hunting is not what it's really about (probably like Moby Dick?).

3. It was a good follow-on from Cold Mountain: two totally different US landscape-based stories, set only a few years apart.

What This Is - and Is Not

• This is a road movie - without the road, the car, or th

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
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
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 spoiler)
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
Cinco estrelas não, porque há o Stoner...
"Uma pessoa nasce, é amamentada na mentira, é desmamada na mentira e aprende mentiras mais elaboradas na escola. Vive toda a vida no meio da mentira e mais tarde, porventura quando está prestes a morrer, descobre que não há nada, nada a não ser ela própria e o que podia ter feito. Só que não o fez, porque as mentiras lhe disseram que havia outra coisa. Nessa altura percebe que podia ter todo o mundo, porque é a única pessoa que sabe o segredo; só que entã
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
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
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 Andre
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Per me John Williams è una garanzia.
Ho letto recensioni contrastanti su questo romanzo e capisco chi ne abbia criticato in particolar modo l'apparente povertà di contenuti e una trama che può apparire scontata, ma la liricità delle descrizioni e dell’ambientazione a me ha soddisfatto pienamente. Mi sono sentita parte di Butcher’s Crossing e della spedizione a caccia di bufali, e a lettura conclusa è impossibile non essere ancora una volta dalla parte degli animali e non degli uomini.
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.
Wonderful book. Read it. Americana at its best. "Stoner" was a book that made me look into my life as I am. "Butcher's Crossing" took me back to my youth when I wandered, and lived in my tent in the mountains, became lost in a snow storm in the North. But more than anything it took me back to this:

"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 halfwa
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
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
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
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.
Interessante il punto di vista espresso nella recensione di Noce, che analizza molto bene le sensazioni che la lettura di questo libro suscita. Trattandosi di un western la memoria è particolarmente affollata di immagini anche assai diverse tra loro. Oltre ai riferimenti visivi giustamente citati secondo me il più aderente è Corvo rosso non avrai il mio scalpo. In Butcher's Crossing gli indiani non ci sono ma lo scenario ed il senso di solitudine ed insieme di simbiosi con la natura mi sembra ...more
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
helen the bookowl
This was my first time reading a western and it was absolutely brilliant! From the very first pages, I could sense the dust of the desert, I could feel the heat of the sun and I could vividly imagine the town of Butcher's Crossing with its saloon, its hotels and its wet bars. In other words, John Williams described the setting perfectly!
Furthermore, I loved how this story continues with an adventure out in the western parts of America. Our four main characters took their horses and their rifles
Pierre Menard
Mar 03, 2015 Pierre Menard rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Who loves the extensive spaces of the West
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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
More about John Williams...

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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.” 11 likes
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