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 paradisiacal 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.
©1988 John Williams (P)2010 Blackstone Audio
“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)
“[This story] 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." (Chicago Tribune)
Three such different books -- Augustus, Stoner, and Butcher's Crossing -- all memorable. This one takes the tired western genre and kicks it back up to literary masterpiece, a coming of age tale told with cinematic sweep and exquisite writing. Some sections were so thrilling that I listened 2X. I mean twice, not doublespeed!
I read this after reading "Stoner," expecting there was no way this one could be any good. As well-written as this is, you'd consider that it was probably written after Stoner although it was actually written 5 years prior. I am a fan of writers like Hemingway and Steinbeck, and I rank Williams up there with them. Nothing is said but what needs to be said. There's no pussyfooting around with the style. The pacing was perfect on this book. Exactly when I felt things needed to hurry up, they'd leap forward a matter of weeks or months in the storyline. This is a book I will read again at some point in the future.
The narration of this is perfect.
This was the second audio book I tried and after having a difficult time with the first one and almost abandoning the audio format for being too long and boring. This reading surprised me as to how interesting a well read, story line book could be. It is one of my favorite books. Most people will discover this book after reading Stoner – also an excellent book. In my opinion Butchers crossing is better.
The pace and the development and depth of the characters throughout the book. A previous reviewer has commented that they wished the story was longer and I whole heartedly agree. I was a book I was sad to finish.
Heald tells the story in an engaging way bringing the characters to life. Each character sounds as I imagine they would.
Yes – It is one of the few times I have wished my 2 hour commute was longer.
"Another quietly compelling novel"
This is a novel that sets its clock against the reader's world and insists you go with it, and that is appropriate for a novel devoted to the last moments of a vanished time. The ending, elegiac and moving, is its very point, and well worth reaching, and the novel's slowly involving pace is rewarding and, again, part of what this novel teaches us about time, how we use it and lose it. Williams's novels tell us what we have lost in an age where novels speak down to us and no longer ask us to reach and to adjust ourselves to what they have to say.
"An Out-of-time Travel In 10 Hours"
OK, you have read 'Stoner'. Here's an early masterpiece, an astonishing debut novel by John Williams.
For the first time in my life I think a novel can be too short. The second part could have been much longer. Even so the description of that tormented year in the valley and surroundings offered me an utterly out-of-time experience. Like the young fellow, I returned mutilated in spirit to read the unpredictable third part. Every paragraph is an essay, a poem, a wiseman's testimony itself.
The narrator is like a wandering ham from the early 1900's, his vocal art fits very well to the novel. Buy and enjoy!
What a story. A young man looking for experience and the reason for his existence arrives at Butchers Crossing with the sole purpose to go buffalo hunting. While reading this story the reader will also go buffalo hunting. He will know what it is like to ride for days sore and raw in the saddle, experience great thirst and hunger, heat and cold. This is an amazing descriptive account. Superb writing. The narrator does extremely well too and his American accent lends all the more authenticity.
"The stylish John Williams"
A coming of maturity in a challenging frontier landscape. A good tale of individuals surviving wild nature told with consummate and stylish descriptive prose. Williams’s style lets one taste the landscape that backdrops the unfolding events. An allegory of meaningless slaughter spurred by passing fashion and extinguished by fashion passing.
"Shows the economic harshness of the untamed west"
Detailed and realistic
The descriptions were detailed and felt accurate and well researched. Some of the attempts to get inside the hero's mind were not so convincing. The performance was excellent in dialogue and slightly mannered in narration. The volume fluctuated, which was a slight nuisance for me listening while driving. More precisely, I would give it between 4 and 5 stars for each category.
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