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On vuoristossa majailevasta valtavasta biisonilaumasta jota kukaan ei ole löytänytNeljän miehen uhkarohkea retkikunta lähtee matkaan preerian halki Raskas matka saa kuin saakin täyttymyksensä kun miehet jäljittävät biisonilauman Ajantaju unohtuu ja talvi pääsee yllättämään miehetButcher’s Crossing julkaistiin alun perin vuonna John Williamsin ylistetyn Stone. 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 remarkable book I put it on the bedside table and I vaguely recall thinking about buffalo as I slowly slid into the lost world of dreams I awoke at 3 am and was so wide awake in fact that I made myself a black coffee with honey slowly opened the doors to the terrace and stood there looking at the Pyrenean mountain range My much beloved mountains but one that I would soon leave Time was relentlessly moving on Thoughts of this book like a stampede of horses took over my mind I didn t want to let go and only wished to remain on this mesmerizing carousel moving at death defying speed while a kaleidoscope of exuisite and yet horrifying images flashed by All the elements were present superimposed with the colours white and red It was surrealisticThis isn t just a story about a young man Will Andrews who leaves Harvard to go west and in fact to find himself but it is also about all aspects of nature and how it has such a profound and important place in our everyday existence And the reason why Andrews was taking this trip in 1873 was not because of buffalo which were really in vogue at that time but because he had become very influenced at college by a lecture given by Ralph Waldo Emerson This would prove to be a divine calling in ways than one 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 not indifferent to the way he walked But he felt that only during the few days that he had been in Butcher s Crossing had nature been so purely presented to him that its power of compulsion was sufficiently strong to strike through his will his habit and his idea He turned west his back toward Butcher s Crossing and the town and cities that lay eastward beyond it he walked past the clump of cottonwoods toward the river he had not seen but which had assumed in his mind the proportions of a vast boundary that lay between himself and the wildness and freedom that his instinct soughtI really don t believe that Andrews knew what he was letting himself in for when he headed west in 1873 He had money in his pocket and in no time after his arrival at Butcher s Crossing a small Kansas town in the back of beyond he had met Mr McDonald who bought and sold buffalo hides Andrews father had given him a letter of introduction to McDonald as he knew him in Boston through the church He thought perhaps that Andrews could help McDonald out in his business This isn t for Andrews though and his whole purpose of being there is to get out into the country and so he s told to contact Miller a buffalo hunter He also met Francine a prostitute who teaches him a thing or two and he sees her again upon his returnSo the upshot is that with Andrew s finance Miller agrees to lead an expedition to the mountain country in the Colorado territory where he was convinced buffalo were to be found Fred Schneider comes as the skinner and Miller s religious sidekick Charley Hoge will be driving the wagon with a team of oxen and will be the camp manSo this epic journey begins We are involved here with four individuals who are all so different and the clash of personalities soon begins when they cannot find water The attention to detail here is remarkable They then get lost but finally find the hidden valley with five thousand buffaloI was however surprised with the ease with which Miller shot them Very few stampedes and I was hoping at one stage that perhaps he would be injured in one of them I really felt for the buffalo The detail about skinning of the animals just seemed to slip into the fabric of the book as if it were a normal daily occurrence It had a dreamlike uality to itThis was meant to be a short trip but Miller seemed to turn into an individual who was possessed and wanted to shoot the entire herd Such slaughter Due to this the men are delayed and nature steps in with all her majestic glory They end up being snowed in for eight months However this certainly wasn t a boring life regardless of this being a case of survival with all of its hardships Recriminations begin to fly from Schneider and even the bible loving Hoge starts complaining The latter had recently been taking to the bottle and his bible readings were becoming and freuentBut upon their journey back to Butcher s Crossing the fast flowing river decides to take and take it did What an incredible episode hereThe consummate beauty of Williams exuisite writing flows continuously throughout this workIn essence this is a relatively simple story for a western I expected cowboys and Indians for some obscure reason and there was only one reference made to IndiansNevertheless Butcher s Crossing is very much the Wild West although a west on the brink of change The railroad is coming it is said and there are fewer and fewer buffalo about and the few Indians left are not worth bothering with Still all the familiar elements remain the rough hewn men the choice in the bar of either beer or gut rot whiskey and the hooker with the heart of goldThis is a splendid book and I love it as I do Stoner These two books are perfect I ve never come across this before and to see how due to Williams style of writing we have here a western of such exceptional uality that it will no doubt stay around for a long time And the next book for me Augustus of course I have ordered it and I should imagine that I will soon be reading my third perfect book

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Butcher's Crossing

Rin tavoin se on löydetty ja saavuttanut menestyksen vasta nyt vuosikymmeniä myöhemmin Tarina kulkee Butcher’s Crossingissa toiseen suuntaan kuin Stonerissa yliopistomaailma vaihtuu karkeaan kovaan elämään lähellä luontoa Williams kunnioittaa lännentarinan perinteitä ja tavoittaa jälleen paljaan ihmisyyden kuvauksen Kirjan pelkistetty kerronta vavahduttaa lukija. 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 spoilerIt was that nothingness of which McDonald had spoken back in the sleeping house as he stood beneath the lantern that flickered weakly against the darkness it was the bright blue emptiness of Charley s Hoge s stare into which he had glimpsed and of which he had tried to tell Francine it was the contemptuous look that Schneider had given the river just before the hoof had blamed his face it was the blind enduring set of Miller s face before the white drive of the storm in the mountains it was the hollow glint in Charley Hoge s eyes when Charley Hoge turned from the dying fire to follow Miller into the night it was the open despair that ripped McDonald s face into a lived mask during his frenzied pursuit of Miller in the holocaust of the hides it was what he saw now in Francine s sleeping face that sagged inertly on her pillow hide spoiler

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Kansas Nuori Will Andrews jättää yliopiston kesken ja saapuu pieneen Butcher’s Crossingin kaupunkiin keskelle ei mitään Hän haluaa kokea Ralph Waldo Emersonin innoittamana alkuperäisen suhteen luontoon mutta keskilännen kovapintaisten miesten kansoittama onnenonkijoiden kaupunki vaikuttaa tylyltä Andrews tutustuu pian mieheen joka saa hänet vakuuttuneeksi Colorad. 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 one of my three favourite novels Stoner which I reviewed HERE as well as his masterpiece Augustus which I reviewed HERE2 Hunting is not what it s really about probably like Moby Dick3 It was a good follow on from Cold Mountain which I reviewed HERE two totally different US landscape based stories set only a few years apartWhat This Is and Is Not This is a road movie without the road the car or the film cameras It s a Western without cows cowboys or indians native Americans It s a character based story but the main characters don t speak or move because they re the landscape and weather It s about big beasts big wilderness big ambitions some big characters but it often focuses on the minutest details of how things looks sound and feel see uotes near the end It s about uests and dreams of meaning for one of wealth for another aspects have a mythical air but harsh reality dominates and it s not the standard American Dream of wealth success fame power It s a coming of age story or bildungsroman except that the end of the journey seems like the beginning of Will s growing up It s about life finding purpose in it as well as basic survival but there s bloody death and butcheryIf it seems a slightly surprising subject for a uiet professor of literature to write about his wife explains that he lived in the West loved the landscape and liked camping He didn t hunt buffalo See this interview with Nancy Gardner Williams HERELandscape He believed there was a subtle magnetism in nature which if he unconsciously yielded to it would direct him aright I often seek uiet landscapes for solace thinking escape preferably woodland I like to listen and touch I m not brave or reckless enough to go anywhere really wild and although I eat meat I m no hunter Nevertheless I can relate to underlying theme of this story than I expectedWill Andrews heads west not to make his fortune but to find meaning in his life The landscape uickly has a profound effect though it doesn t really clarify things for him He longs for the distant mountains but did not know precisely what hunger or thirst they would assuage How many of us long vaguely for something without being sure how or if it will fix thingsAfter only a month away from Boston he barely remembers home which seems in a very distant time The image would not stay with him Unreal it thinned like brown fog He uickly feels at home in the tiny settlement of Butcher s Crossing but yearns to go further into the wilderness in a hint of the distant horizon he sees his own undiscovered nature As he travels he comes to identify with his surroundings He felt himself to be like the land without identity or shape He has the feeling that he was being absorbed and promised a richness and a fulfilment for which he had no name After only a few weeks He had been here in the high valley for all of that part of his life that mattered He could not think of himself outside of where he was Is this peace or an unhealthy form of disassociationBut what s it all for When they eventually leave the valley after much hardship Will felt vaguely that he would be leaving something behind something that might have been precious to him had he been able to know what it was This thwarting of uncertain ambitions this lack of resolution reminded me of StonerFaith Religion RitualDoes everyone need faith in something I m not sure I don t think I have faith in anything much but that s the suggestion here Charley Hoge the waggon driver has a simple but profound faith in the words of his dog eared Bible and a fair amount of faith in Miller the experienced buffalo hunter Miller s faith is also in Miller his vast experience of the beasts and their environment Schneider the skinner has faith in his own experience so it s no surprise that he and Miller don t always agree McDonald the hide trader has hope of future prosperity when the railroad comes through town Will is the faithless one the son of a preacher who pressed Emerson than God on his son That is surely why Will now seeks answers in the wilderness and why the reality of their journey lay in the routine detail a ritual and meaningless as it was repeated but a ritual which nevertheless gave his life the only shape it now had There is also a ritualistic aspect to the hunting killing and skinning a rhythm in Miller s slaughter Like a dance a thunderous minuet created by the wildness that surrounded it Does that make it somehow sacred or profane and greedyIf my Biblical knowledge were closer to Charley s than Will s I d probably spot but wilderness is significant in the Christian story and just as Genesis has a six day creation Miller s preparation for the journey is six days as it the first leg of it after which they are literally off the beaten trackI m not sure if it s the author s intention but you could easily sermonise along the lines of the perils of chasing material gain versus the importance of searching for deeper truthTransformationFrom the most ancient myths and stories physical journeys have paralleled personal journeys of transformation That is true here not just of Will but even the characters who are used to venturing out for weeks on endThere are the obvious physical transformations from weeks in the saddle then the hard labour of hunting and skinning etc but the psychological changes are greatest and most profound As things get tougher each man has to wrestle his own demons as well as the other men and the conditions in which they re living travelling and hopefully surviving physically and mentally He thought at times that he as moving into a new body or into a real body that had lain hidden beneath unreal layers of softness and whiteness and smoothness Later these feelings are echoed when he loses his virginity SurvivalIf you like survival stories there s plenty here They travel in uncharted territory where only one of them has been before and that was ten years earlier They have supplies but need to make them last and can t ever go too far from water The terrain and weather are always a risk as is the greed of trying to get just a few hidesSeeing this Through Other EyesSome books are so deep or strange they inspire hugely varied and very creative reviews This is in some ways a very simple story but I was struck by the variety of my friends reviews they are almost all 4 or 5 but the themes and ideas the pick out are remarkably diverse I think that indicates how much depth there is beneath the surfaceI think this could make a wonderful film but only in the rights hands It needs to focus on careful shots of the landscape rather than wild west clich s enormous vistas as well as careful light highlighting details close up Stephen Poliakoff would be perfect though in 2010 Sam Mendes was reported to be adapting it He s made some excellent films but I m not sure I d want to see his version of thisDescriptions of Minute DetailsThis is also a notable feature of his first disowned novel Nothing But The Night HERE He became aware that his hands were tightly clenched the tips of his fingers slipped in the moisture of his palms Flat lines of sweat ran through the glinting beads of moisture that stood out on his forehead and ran into his tangled eyebrows He noticed the minute beads of sweat that stood out distinctly above her full lip and caught the sunlight like tiny crystals The rich buffalo grass changed its color throughout the day in the morning in the pinkish rays of the early sun it was nearly gray in the yellow light of the midmorning sun it was a brilliant green at noon it took on a bluish cast in the afternoon in the intensity of the sun at a distance the blades lost their individual character and through the green showed a distinct cast of yellow so that when a light breeze whipped across a living color seemed to run through the grass to disappear and reappear from moment to moment In the evening after the sun had gone down the grass took on a purplish hue as if it absorbed all the light from the sky and would not give it back When he inserted the rod into the breech of the barrel the hot metal hissed and the drops of water that got on the outside of the barrel danced for a moment on the blued metal and disappeared He heard nothing save the soft whistling of the wind around his ears which were beginning to tingle from the coolness The southern reaches of the valley were softening in a faint mist that was coming down from the mountains the sunlit white vapor twisted and coiled upon itself before a thrusting wind that was not felt on the ground here in the valley The mountainside was a riot of varied shade and hue He thought that if he listened he could hear the sound of growth the fragrant air spiced with the odor of crushed pine needles and musty from the slow decay that worked upward from the earth Other uotes It was a freedom and a goodness a hope and a vigor that he perceived to underlie all the familiar things of his life which were not free or good or hopeful or vigorous What he sought was the source and preserver of his world a world which seemed to turn ever in fear away from its source She was a presence which assuaged a need in him that he barely knew he had until the need was met Caught in the ugliness of sleep defenceless in the innocence of sleep he had never seen a part of her that he was seeing now It wasn t you it was me Published in 1960Williams Four Novels ComparedSee the end of my review of his first disowned novel Nothing But The Night HERE

10 thoughts on “Butcher's Crossing

  1. says:

    ”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

  2. says:

    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 one of my three favourite novels Stoner which I reviewed HERE as well as his masterpiece Aug

  3. says:

    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 Bibl

  4. says:

    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 wor

  5. says:

    The bright flare of a match the creaking of saddle leather and the mournful lowing of the oxen The smell of scorched coffee permeates the air joining the stink of buffalo hunters too long on the trail Later the confusion of the herd is rampant amidst the air made hazy and heavy by gun smoke The force of nature takes its toll as it always will The horror of the elements and the sheer beautyI searched for this book based

  6. says:

    John Williams wrote four novels None of them however sold many copies during his lifetime I remember some years ago seeing and scanning stories about John Williams with headlines such as “The Best Writer You Never Heard Of” or something similar And that certainly applied to me I had never heard of him and I couldn’t read his books because they were out of print In fact although there were critics who praised his work his books sold fe

  7. says:

    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 un

  8. says:

    he believed and had believed for a long time that there was a subtle magnetism in nature which if he unconsciou

  9. says:

    A cold wind blew across the prairie when the last buffalo fell a death wind for my people Sitting BullThey came down into valley and the buffalo herds were moving darkly over the land like waves on the ocean The men slowly

  10. says:

    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 any

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