Butcher's Crossing

Butcher's Crossing

Paperback New York Review Books Classics

By (author) John Williams, Introduction by Michelle Latiolais

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  • Publisher: NYRB Classics
  • Format: Paperback | 296 pages
  • Dimensions: 127mm x 198mm x 20mm | 272g
  • Publication date: 5 July 2007
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1590171985
  • ISBN 13: 9781590171981
  • Sales rank: 28,462

Product description

In his National Book Award-winning novel Augustus, John Williams uncovered the secrets of ancient Rome. With Butcher's Crossing, his fiercely intelligent, beautifully written western, Williams dismantles the myths of modern America. 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.

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Author information

John Williams (1922-1994) was born and raised in Northeast Texas. Despite a talent for writing and acting, Williams flunked out of a local junior college after his first year. He reluctantly joined the war effort, enlisting in the Army Air Corps, and managing to write a draft of his first novel while there. Once home, Williams found a small publisher for the novel and enrolled at the University of Denver, where he was eventually to receive both his B.A. and M.A., and where he was to return as an instructor in 1954. Williams remained on the staff of the creative writing program at the University of Denver until his retirement in 1985. During these years, he was an active guest lecturer and writer, publishing two volumes of poetry and three novels, Butcher's Crossing, Stoner, and the National Book Award-winning Augustus. Michelle Latiolais is a member of the Programs in Writing at the University of California at Irvine where she is associate professor of English. She is the author of the novel Even Now.

Review quote

'One of the finest books about the elusive nature of the West ever written...It's a graceful and brutal story of isolated men gone haywire.' Time Out New York '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 'One of the finest novels of the West ever to come out of the West.' The Denver Post 'This story about the hunt of one of the last great buffalo herds "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, a rarity in writing about the west. More, John Williams.' The Chicago Tribune 'John Williams's unsparing novels express a highly qualified though resilient optimism about our ability to salvage something of value from life's impossible conditions. Along with the necessary isolation of the artist, he conveys the sobering if startled recognition--perhaps with his own career in mind--of the transitory triumph of art.' Times Literary Supplement