Monday, August 25, 2014

"A man loses lots of habits in time"

Butcher's Crossing review
Buffalos before hoes
A favorable review in Humo. A 3-for-the-price-of-2 deal at the book store. That's all it took for Butcher's Crossing (1960) to get into my bookcase.

And I'm glad that it did. Texas-born John Williams (1922-1994) might have otherwise never registered on my radar. According to the interweb, Stoner and Augustus (for which he won the 1973 National Book Award) are Williams' best works, which is kind of frightening, really. I can't even begin to imagine how he could have possibly topped it.

Will Andrews is a Harvard dropout who heads out west in search of adventure. He ends up in Butcher's Crossing, a Kansas town in the middle of nowhere, where he meets and signs on with buffalo hunter Miller, who wants to track down hidden herds of buffalos deep in the Colorado country. Their journey is a true test of character and resilience, but ultimately rewarding. Until winter overtakes Andrews and his companions, and they are tested even more. To the point of insanity.

Wow, I loved this book!

As the words moved through the page, I became more and more engrossed with Williams' cinematic story of the west. The ruthlessness, the exploitation of nature, the devastating challenges thrown at our protagonists... The writing is masterful and vivid, and the gradual transformation of Andrews is executed in a very powerful way. As he sheds his romanticism with each slaughtered buffalo, the destructive nature of the American Dream hits like a sledgehammer.

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