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on December 7, 2016
"A cold wind blew across the prairie when the last buffalo fell..... a death wind for my people."
~~Sitting Bull

They came down into valley, and the buffalo herds were moving darkly over the land like waves on the ocean. The men slowly moved in on them. The first shot went to kill the leader of the herd, more shots would follow. My mind stopped. The buffalo just stood there in wonder of what was going on. and one by one they were killed. What innocence they had. What beautiful creatures. What a very moving novel.
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on July 12, 2014
This book has been called the greatest western ever written. Williams is not a “western” novelist, like a Louie Lamoure, just a great writer that wrote a novel set in the west. The story is about a greenhorn from Boston with wanderlust caused by ennui who joins some buffalo hunters at “Butcher’s Crossing.” Let’s just say things don’t go as planned. Interesting characters, beautiful descriptions, but an ending you may or may not like. I could never quite grab hold of the author’s overall thesis, but I feel like it was my fault and not his. To give you a sense of the power of his writing, I was reading the book while riding the train to work and the passage was about the characters being trapped in a blizzard. When the train stopped and I went to get off, my first thought was if I had an overcoat to keep me warm in the storm I was about to enter. So, not frivolous fare, but a substantial read that isn’t dense. 4-1/2 stars our of 5.
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on January 30, 2016
Truly, one of the great novels of the west, up there with "True Grit" "The Son" and "The Sisters Brothers" . This, though, vastly more poetic in its depiction of the life, challenges and obsessions that were unique to the time and place. Like Williams's other books, there is a prevailing sense of sorrow, loneliness in the personal journey of the protagonist Will Andrews. However, the development of character is wonderful, the writing and style truly beautiful as the story unfolds. The backdrop of the west is like a magical Hudson River School painting which inspires and intreagues in its beauty. .
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on December 13, 2014
This is one of the best novels I've read in years. In terms of depth and its study of the human condition I would compare it to a book like "Of Human Bondage" by W Somerset Maugham with its profound insight to life.
The story is deceptively simple, it's basically a classic western. A young man from the civilized east seeks adventure in the west and joins a hunting party going into unsettled country on a buffalo hunt. They get snowed in over winter and struggle to survive before coming back in the spring. However the little town of Butcher's Crossing from which they departed has changed and that change mirrors what has happened to them.
For a novel that has such emotional and philosophical punch it is remarkably easy to read and the pages just fly by.
Highly recommended.
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on November 26, 2014
John Williams of Stoner and Augustus, a National Book Award winner, seems to have no shortage of talent and loneliness at play in his three classic works. This is a tad over-described for the western reader who knows the form's 'non-literary' contributors, who also broke new ground time and time again, but it is utterly strong, nonetheless.
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on November 29, 2014
I submit the theme of this book to be "man's inhumanity to himself." I knew that the buffalo were nearly extinct in the wild west era, but I never knew the brutality involved.

The men in this novel made such horrendous choices that the mind becomes numb by the consequences. I love a good survival tale, but the level of destruction to man and beast brings a new definition to the word, survival.

Please be aware that this is no idyll of the historic west. This is brutally, though beautifully wrought, and leaves no room for nostalgia. Reader beware, this is not a story for the "weak of heart." I leave the details to unfold as they do. That way, the reader can decide for himself, how to delve, or not, into this tale of horror and woe.
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on January 14, 2014
Before there was Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian," there was this novel exploring the blood-drenched core of man's nature. In "Butcher's Crossing," a neophyte from the "civilized" Northeast comes to a town built around buffalo-hide trade, and sets off on a perilous journey with a skilled buffalo killer, a surly skinner, and a crumbling cook. Williams' skill constructing setting, dialogue, and action elevate "Butcher's Crossing" from gripping Western to something closer to timeless epic. Like the skilled skinner the protagonist becomes, Williams cuts with precision hide from muscle, muscle from bone, fingers fearlessly reaching into the guts of dark, human reality below the tough outer shell. The ending of the novel is bleak and brilliant and validates all that has come before. This illusion-crushing novel is not for the squeamish, but that's the whole point, isn't it.
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on September 8, 2009
It's hard to believe we had, at one time, such a place as the the old west for our young people to cut their teeth in! A young man from Boston who's spent 3 years at Harvard rides a stage coach across country to a deserted 10 horse town in Kansas. He's literally set down in the middle of nothing. I loved Williams' description of the `town'. The buildings had been hastily put up and the people were barely socialized. The only industry was killing animals to sell to a middle man for the Eastern market. Against this backdrop our Emerson besotted Bostonian joins up with a few hardened frontier men who are looking for a bank roll so they can chase their dream of killing buffalo. Our hero, Will Andrews, can't resist the adventure this Don Quixote and his Sancho Panza tempt him with. They set out and encounter way more than windmills. They head towards the mountains of Colorado.

I'd never heard of John Williams until I came across a review of his "Stoner" which led me to "Butcher's Crossing". He's an incredible writer and though the entire book is not to be missed the last third was achingly beautiful. The landscape is intrinsic to the story. It could even be considered one of the main characters. Here's one of the many passages that I couldn't help reading over and over. It describes the coming of spring in the Colorado mountains, "The mountainside was a riot of varied shade and hue. The dark green of the pine boughs was lightened to a greenish yellow at the tips, where new growth was starting; scarlet and white buds were beginning to open on the wild-berry bushes; and the pale green of new growth on the slender aspens shimmered above the silver-white bark of their trunks. All about the ground the pale new grass reflected the light of the sun into the shadowed recesses beneath the great pines, and the dark trunks glowed in that light, faintly, as if the light came from the hidden centers of the trees themselves. He thought that if he listened he could hear the sound of growth." Writing just doesn't get much better than this in my opinion.
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on August 22, 2016
Fantastic novel which describes the beauty of the American West bisected by human carelessness, greed, and cruelty.
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on October 10, 2014
This book, written in 1960 is a classic Western set story of characters seeking something new in the resource rich West.
In this case the resource happens to be the Buffalo. Like the beaver, the buffalo was almost eradicated to provide for fashion trends in the East.

The author, John Williams, develops characters and sense of place in an interesting and sensitive manner. The tale unfolds with dramatic storytelling and descriptive prose.

As I'm not an English Lit type, I probably cannot reveal all of the allegory present in the tale. It is a very interesting read, one with lingering remaining thoughts for the reader
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