zondag 26 april 2015

John Williams: Butcher’s Crossing


I got this novel in the Vintage Red Classics version (which I love) but I do so hate it when they put those round thingies on them that seem to be stickers but they aren’t. I hate that.
The novel has 326 pages and I got it second-hand.

 “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 paradisal 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.”

First and foremost; I loved Williams’ novel ‘Stoner’ more.
That being said, I did enjoy this one a lot too, but it’s just not there with ‘Stoner’.

Williams does an amazing job depicting these four men in a frenzy of killing and then being reduced to mere animals trying to survive in the worst situation possible. They lose who they are, they are numb and they devolve the entire period they are in the mountains.
You feel their pain when they lose the carriage with the hides and when they reach the town. You feel the cold, their hunger and thirst and the hard work. It’s a very vivid novel.
The descriptions of nature and the unfolding events are amazing. The way he writes about the flaying of the buffalo but also the vividness of their way of living; especially during the snowstorm. Those are scenes I won’t forget easily. I mean; it’s like you’re right there with them the whole time.
By the end of their journey, Andrews' fantasy of nature has been greatly disrupted by reality and he will never be the same again. Even though we knew from the beginning it would end this way. The moment we met Miller it was clear it would end badly because he is a man on a mission a man with a purpose and only one purpose.

But I do feel the characters are a bit archetypical. The student without any knowledge of the world, the one who doesn’t want to be there, the one in charge who goes into the killing frenzy.
Especially by the end of the novel Williams gives us some insights into humans, capitalism, economy etc. which I thought were a bit too much.

I think I would have loved it without the ending. Just their coming home would be enough for me.

Happy reading!

Calm Afternoon.