Ken Robinson Snowflake Speech Analysis
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Ken Robinson sagt: Schule erstickt die Kreativität (Deutscher Untertitel)
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I just want to know more about this country. Oh yes, and one more, probably the most important other than Andrews: Nature. Call her Mother if you want. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, and Transcendentalism Williams has placed two quotations directly following the title page, before we see a word of his own writing. The first of these says: At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he takes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find Nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her.
The quote is from an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson titled Nature. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life … which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space , - all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball ; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God … I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages.
In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon , man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. There in some small solitude, standing on bare ground, he felt his head bathed by the clean air and uplifted into infinite space ; the meanness and the constriction he had felt were dissipated in the wildness about him. A phrase from a lecture by Mr. Emerson that he had attended came to him: I become a transparent eyeball. In the above quotes, the italics highlight phrases that are almost identical. And what he has also done, is put front and center a link between his novel, and the New England transcendental vision. And the main differences are all on display right here. A sort of yarb-doctors in their way, poets have it that for sore hearts, as for sore lungs, nature is the grand cure.
But who froze to death my teamster on the prairie? This he does, in the saloon. Miller sits with Charley Hoge. Francine is waiting on them. Miller leaves for Ellsworth to buy a wagon, supplies, and hire a skinner. While Miller is gone, Andrews has a few days hanging around the town. He talks with McDonald and Francine. And he spends a lot of time walking to the edge of town and contemplating the rolling land to the west.
Williams will tell the story not in the fields and woods which Emerson knew in the east, but on the vast plains and in the high mountains which he, Williams, knew in the west. Andrews believes he knows what he is seeking. Whether he does know is the question. New England Transcendentalism view spoiler [ … if you want more info. The reader has three fourths of it still to read. Will Andrews has an unknown portion of his journey to knowledge of himself, of life, the world, and Nature to travel. And the reader of this review is just about finished. I think it would be a wonderful novel for a book club to discuss. The more I reread sections for this review, the more I found. These flaws in execution, to my mind, largely disappeared in his next novel, Stoner.
However, I personally found this novel, which I read before Stoner, to be a more interesting story. At the end, Andrews rides enigmatically into the west. Except for the general direction that he took, he did not know where he was going; but he knew that it would come to him later … He rode forward without hurry. View all 57 comments. Feb 21, Algernon Darth Anyan rated it it was amazing Shelves: , favorites. 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 anyone determined enough to reach for it. Butcher's Crossing is about another facet of the Great American Dream, the myth of the pristine land, a Garden of Eden where Man 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. Butcher's Crossing is about another facet of the Great American Dream, the myth of the pristine land, a Garden of Eden where Man can go to find beauty, peace and dignity.
Will Andrews is a child of the modern world, growing up in Boston around in a reasonably wealthy family. His imagination is fired up by the discourses of Ralph Waldo Emerson and he decides to leave Harvard and strike West, not in search of wealth or fame, but chasing the meaning of life and spiritual fulfillment. At the gate of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish.
The harsh travelling conditions, the gruff locals and the dingy, derelict houses do little to curb his enthusiasm, his eyes ever turning towards the westward prairie. He turns down an offer to join in the profitable business of tanning buffalo hides, prefering to look out for a guide into the wilderness: 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, rather than search it out, as the prairie grass around him sent down its fibered roots into the rich, dank dampness, the Wildness, and thereby renew itself, year after year.
His moderate savings enable him to finance a hunting expedition towards a secret location in the the Colorado mountains, a pet project of Miller - a lone wolf hunter with a difficult personality but with 20 years experience in the field. The team is completed with Miller's one handed partner Charley Hoge, a drunken Bible thumper and by a hired hand - a professional skinner of a contrarian disposition, always grumbling and challenging Miller's leadership. The novel really takes off once the expedition sets out on the trackless prairie, with Williams wonderful prose capturing both the 'true grit' of saddle sores, debilitating tiredness, thirst, mind numbing boredom, and the poetry of the boundless vistas, the sea like quality of being at the center of the universe and moving in a timeless bubble outside the reality of civilized East Coast.
Miller is like a force of nature, pushing all of them forward mercilessly, reading the lay of the land, the sun and the winds with consummate skill. What is missing in this landscape is the object of the hunt - the buffalo has already been hunted to near extinction and is present only as mounds of white bones or the occasional wounded stray. Miller's obsession with the herd hidden in his secret mountain valley reminds of Melville and his Captain Ahab chasing another impossible dream. Miller's dream though turns out to be true, as the heavy bull driven cart comes at last to the high pass opening into a vision of paradise, a veritable Shangri-la hidden from covetous eyes, as perfect a camping place as I ever encountered on my own mountain treks: A long narrow valley, flat as the top of a table, wound among the mountains.
Lush grass grew on the bed of the valley, and waved gently in the breeze as far as the eye could see. A quietness seemed to rise from the valley; it was the quietness, the stillness, the absolute calm of a land where no human foot had touched. Andrews found that despite his exhaustion he was holding his breath; he expelled the air from his lungs as gently as he could, so as not to disturb the silence. As a sidenote, I'm not familiar with the detailed history of the Colorado territories in the XIX century, but it seems to me Williams is ignoring completely the Native American angle. A single instance of meeting a destitute Indian family scraping a meagre living on the plains makes it seem like the author deliberately ignored their historical presence as outside the scope of his novel - he needed a pristine setting in order to make his point.
The promised herd of buffalo is here in great numbers, resplendent in their autumn coats, well fed on the bountiful grass and as yet unafraid of the danger humans represent. Young Andrews education turns to a bloody and gruesome page, as the idillic landscape becomes a scene of indiscriminate slaughter and Miller's goal of wiping out the herd completely is revealed as the spirit of the modern world that gets drunk on power and immediate profit without any thought for long term consequences or preservation of resources ['Drill Baby, Drill!
Miller's unhinged mind is blind to all appeals at reason and moderation, as the gathered skins far outstrip the carrying capacity of their cart. Nature or karma strikes back, and the expedition is trapped in the high mountain valley by an early snowstorm. Once again, the writing knocked me down as it describes the struggle for survival and the tensions between the four members of the team, the long tedious months of being cooped up in an improvised shelter, the lack of even the most basic comforts. A weary and disillusioned Andrews comes down in the spring and slowly makes his way back to Butcher's Crossing for a big finale in which the falsity, the destructive nature of the American Dream is reaffirmed in an emphatic way. Young people', McDonald said contemptuously.
Well, there's nothing. You get born, and you nurse on lies, and you get weaned on lies, and you learn fancier lies in 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 you could have done. Only you ain't done it, because the lies told you there was something else. Then you know you could of had the world, because you're the only one that knows the secret; only the it's too late. You're too old. This is a bleak revelation, but I have the feeling a necessary one.
The lessons have been painful, but Andrews is still young and a small hope exists that he will step into his next adventure with his eyes open. Being more circumspect does not mean giving up altogether. At least this is how I like to look at the outcome. I am surprised the novel is not better known, it is probably the most literate, thoughtful and brutal analysis of the Western myth I've come across since watching Jeremiah Johnson at the Cinemateque. I can see how modern writers like Larry McMurtry or Cormac mcCarthy may have been influenced in their approach by this definitely unromantic look at the Frontier. View all 14 comments. Mar 23, Charles rated it really liked it. I had read Stoner in , then Augustus earlier this year, in Same goes with John Williams.
He sets his sights on something grittier instead, something wilder, and heads out west, specifically to Kansas: Andrews wants a taste of the frontier life. Once on location, he ends up funding and taking part in a hunting expedition to Colorado, securing a guide and a small crew. His long ride to Kansas on a rickety carriage was only the first of the numerous discomforts the author would throw at Andrews during his manly journey of self-discovery.
For a pampered urbanite more used to attending classes at Harvard than hitting the trails, it has to be said that Will Andrews shows admirable buoyancy and consistent resilience despite the challenges him and his hired crew end up facing. But then, the idealism of youth makes for only one of the various facets of the human experience set under scrutiny by John Williams over the course of this survival story.
The more seasoned hunters around Andrews, including the expedition leader, contribute their own substantial weight to every single chapter from the moment they are introduced. Andrews may be the official protagonist in this novel, but Williams dotes his attention on other crew members almost equally. I had reached for this novel in spite of its topic, not in any way because of it.
Just as I was hoping, the book quickly established its worth as a quirky character study, although it wouldn't be unfair to mention that it is also more fast-paced and somewhat simpler than Stoner and Augustus were to become, one day. Through the eyes of Andrews and his temporary entourage, John Williams makes a few interesting points and airs various views in this book. He plays with the concepts of predator and prey, making a same man sometimes the one, sometimes the other. He reflects on the despair we all harbor but glimpse only on occasion for most of us, when civility and appearances are forcefully pushed aside, revealing something burning deep into our core, a primal fear of some sort, maybe an anger at our lack of control on circumstances.
He takes a jab at the folly of human hope and condemns the lies society builds itself upon. It seems that hope is not something so easily discarded, even in the face of a disastrous expedition and the cumulative mistakes of young and old hunters alike. View all 38 comments. There he meets a hunter named Miller, who tells him of a hidden valley in Colorado, where the biggest herd of buffalo he has ever seen graze the summer away, and convinces Andrews to finance an four-man expedition there. He agrees, and soon, he is off to this fabled valley with Miller, a skinner named Fred Schneider and Charley Hoge, a man to keep camp and drive the wagon. I am tempted to dock a star for the simple reason that I am profoundly horrified by some of the subject matter: hunting animals to extinction for hide and letting most of their carcass rot and go to waste is something that upsets me a lot.
And I know Williams wrote this before environmental concerns were the big deal they are today, and that yes, the stuff that happens on the page really did happen, but I still find myself shuddering. Maybe my least favorite novel of his, but still a 4 and a half stars. View all 18 comments. Sep 14, Diane Barnes rated it really liked it Shelves: western-literature. I turned the last page knowing that, instead, it was an epic tragedy. If you can read this book without having your stomach turned at the senseless slaughter of these animals, you're a stronger person than I am. A quietness seemed to rise from the valley; it was the quietness, the stillness, the absolute calm of a land where no human foot had touched". Four men go into this valley to kill one of the last of the big herds in the country.
They get greedy, get caught in the snows, and stumble out of the valley six months later, leaving behind carnage and destruction. There is much more to this story, of course, and that is where the tragedy lies. It's really too bad that buffalo were such gentle creatures, I was hoping they would turn on the hunters, leaving four dead men instead of thousands of dead buffalo. But no such luck. This was a complex novel of men and their dreams and motives, and what they are willing to do to achieve them. There's plenty of action here. Aug 18, Ken rated it it was amazing Shelves: finished-in Will Andrews, the protagonist, is but a year-old preacher's son when he shows up in Butcher's Crossing with money and a dream in hand.
He winds up payrolling a buffalo hunt to a hidden valley known only to a hunter named Miller. Along with his whiskey-swilling, Bible-thumping driver, Charley Hogue, and a sardonic skinner named Schneider, Miller leads Will and the others across the spectacular western landscape to their fates in a land of milk, honey, and blood. Along the way, you are treated to some fine nature writing, such as this: "For a long time after he had bedded down, Will Andrews listened to the silence around him. For a while the acrid smell of the smothered pine log's burning warmed his nostrils; then the wind shifted and he could no longer smell the smoke or hear the heavy breaths of the sleeping men around him.
He turned so that he faced the side of the mountain over which they had traveled. From the darkness that clung about the earth he lifted his gaze and followed the dim outlines of particular trees as they rose from the darkness and gradually gained distinctness against the deep blue cloudless sky that twinkled with the light of the clear stars. Even with an extra blanket on his bedroll, he was chilled; he could see the gray cloud of his breath as he breathed the sharp night air. His eyes closed upon the image of a tall conical pine tree outlined blackly against the luminous sky, and despite the cold he slept soundly until morning.
It's no coincidence that Miller's name is one letter away from "killer. The blood and gore are smeared upon the entire party, and though Will spends one memorable scene in a freezing cold river trying to scrape it off, it is as much a legacy to each individual as is Lady Macbeth's stained hands. Of course, despite being master of the bison, even Miller cannot subdue nature, and nature collects her due -- abundantly, , as is her wont, when human folly and greed allow. The simple yet epic depictions of the fall and winter, of how frail these four men are in the face of it, and of their struggle to return with their furred fortunes, are both appalling and gripping. In addition to the moral issues, Williams plays the coming-of-age card as well, constantly using darkness and light with their ancient, metaphoric grips on our imaginations and fears.
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 you could have done. Then you know you could of had the world, because you're the only one that knows the secret; only then it's too late. A vague terror crept from the darkness that surrounded them, and tightened his voice. If you've got the patience for the long ride out and the long ride back, you might want to deal in.
And if you hate westerns, consider it a morality play set in the west and move them doggies out View all 19 comments. I want to get to know it. This is not the glorified version of How The West Was Won which so many still cling to today and it's a part of our collective soul as a nation. It was a tough read. To end on a positive note, as I was nearing the conclusion so grateful for the timing here , a 90 second video by The Nature Conservancy popped up in my newsfeed about continuing efforts to reestablish these magnificent beasts to the plains.
Perhaps this will insure that they never appear on the extinct species list. View all 21 comments. Wonderful book. Read it. Americana at its best. But more than anything it took me back to this: "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 halfwa Wonderful book. But more than anything it took me back to this: "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.
We can continue into the unknown being certain that there is no meaning or we can return to what we know and still be nothing. Just as Stoner accepts his fate 'stoically' at least the popular view of stoicism , so the young William Andrews accepts his losses and carries on with no sense of regret. Williams wrote true classics. Perhaps McCarthy's style with Wallace Stegner's thoughtfulness. There are many commonalities.
Strangely, for myself, this book touched many memories of dreams, of events and of emotions of my youth, as cited above. Even my philosophical beliefs were brought into play. Finally, I think of one of my great grandfathers who rode away from home one day in Montana in the s. He was never heard of again. Such was the nature of the times. Such is the nature of this book. Sep 06, Lisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: audiobook , favorites , tbr-shelf , classicsth-century.
The novel encapsulates the late 19th century U. At its core is the adventures of four men who embark on an arduous hunt for buffalo. Nothing works out as planned. There is carnage and futility and tragedy. A staggering, stunning work of literature. View all 6 comments. Oct 30, Parthiban Sekar rated it really liked it Shelves: american-lit , owned. Bulls-eye: After reading this book, I have felt myself becoming one of those naive victims from this story.
At first, I was unaware of what is going to happen amidst the scurry behind shrubs and rocks, and the constant thuds of distant hooves. I was slowly made to believe that everything is normal without knowing what lies beneath. I suppose that I was taken for granted. Eventually, there was this strange feeling of foreign intervention which made me question my own existence and my very own purp Bulls-eye: After reading this book, I have felt myself becoming one of those naive victims from this story. Eventually, there was this strange feeling of foreign intervention which made me question my own existence and my very own purpose in this life.
There were chaos and confusions everywhere, and bodies hitting the ground at regular intervals. The need to survive shattered our unity. The sunlight revealed the intrusion of hunters, watching with stoic interest, indifferently pulling the trigger, and putting us to an eternal sleep. But, high above, there was the Sun slowly passing behind us, after beating on us all day. Everyday was an equinox of life and death. The onset of the winter drew the men back to their camps and some of our lives were spared.
I resumed my old life indifferently, away from the flayed bodies. The men strove against the winter with our hides and survived on our flesh. Several months later, there was no sign of them but the strong stench of the wastes they left behind. It made me wonder that what was that these men were after: were they looking only to earn a living from the hides, or find a meaning which might lie under the hides? Birds-eye : With the lively descriptions of the travel of the hunting party, it was hard not to go along with them to the faraway mountains and the wild prairies. But, a sense of question always kept gnawing at me: what is there to find among buffaloes, that cannot be found among people?
The lovely analogy between the undressed harlot and the skinned calf stands out to be some of the best parts I've read so far. So, the way I see it: this inquisitive work of art seems to ask one and only one thing: Is there any meaning, after all? Disclaimer: Please ignore any silly errors and inferences as I made myself write after a really long time. Nevertheless, try reading this compelling book, may be not from buffalo's perspective like me.
Not Joking! Ha Ha! View all 15 comments. I enjoyed this sparse and dark novel set in Kansas and Colorado in the period after the Civil War. Strong characterisation and very atmospheric. This is Moby Dick brought to a rapidly changing American West. A precursor to the novels of Cormac McCarthy. View all 3 comments. Nov 14, Tony rated it it was amazing Shelves: u-s-lit , nyrb-classics , top-ten People, here and elsewhere, are agrief over the most recent national election.
A common question is, "How could this happen? I'd never finish the longer answer. In the unlikely event that the first or second explanation didn't cause a disagreement, eventually ennui wo People, here and elsewhere, are agrief over the most recent national election. In the unlikely event that the first or second explanation didn't cause a disagreement, eventually ennui would set in, because, really, the explanations would never end. It would be like asking "What is an American? Four men head west. It's Miller's plan.
He thinks he knows where one of the last great herds of buffalo is, hidden through a pass in the Colorado Rockies. With him is Charley Hoge, one-handed, with a need for whiskey and his well-worn Bible, but useful and loyal. Schneider, too is along, a cold, dark presence, a skinner, sharpened distrust. And lastly is Will Andrews, with three years of Harvard in him and bankroll enough. Andrews is searching for. He doesn't know what. Three of them are on horses, with Charley Hoge on the cart harruping the oxen. Only three horsemen, but their journey will be apocalyptic enough. Miller turns Ahab-like, determined to erase the entire herd. Till Schneider stops, as if he has heard a distant thunder. The killing stops; the men look upward. And there: the first snowflake.
All their bloodlust, all their hubris; but they have miscalculated. They have gotten in, but they can not get out. Some hold that the writing of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a prophecy. And not a rosy one. Butcher's Crossing was published just as the first troops were landing in Vietnam. I read this as more troops are in Afghanistan mountains. The miscalculation need not be precisely prophesized when the lesson is universal. Nor, I think, is the allegory limited to War. What was Andrews searching for? Another character, McDonald, tells him this: "Well, there's nothing.
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 you could have done. Then you know you could of had the world, because you're the only one that knows the secret; only it's too late. View all 9 comments. May 09, Ron rated it really liked it Shelves: classics , own , western. There are parts of Butcher's Crossing that remind me of another book or story, or maybe it is actual history I think of. The young man's name in this story is Andrews. His reasoning at this time in his life is the same as many others have been and will be: abandon the former life and future for the open and untamed West that calls to him.
My synopsis of Andrews' initial plight is quite up to par to h There are parts of Butcher's Crossing that remind me of another book or story, or maybe it is actual history I think of. My synopsis of Andrews' initial plight is quite up to par to his wording. His would be far more eloquent. But of course those are John William's words on the page. Not easy to equal, are his words - simply gorgeous to me. Stoner also left his would-be-path for a new one, but besides the writing it's the only other comparison.
Along with three other men, William Andrews finds what he was looking for in the West, at least in part, in the Buffalo herds that roam the plains - as did so many men of that history. But with it they also find what they couldn't have bargained for. To me, this book read like the hand of fate. The answer to the compulsion of one man, the greed of another, and innocence changed. In many ways, John Williams turns the western on it's head, and does it so well. May 04, Krista rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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.
Alas, I have now read the last of John Williams' three profoundly perfect and completely different novels — Stoner , Augustus , and now Butcher's Crossing — and I'd say that if they have anything in common it would be a quest to know one's self and one's connection to the rest of humanity and is there any topic more appropriate or even vital for fiction to explore? In each case — whether confronting the truth at the heart of a man or of a country — there are lies and myths and misunderstanding to be overcome before the future may be met with integrity. Coming as it did in — when the movies still portrayed the Plains-clearing cowboys as the good guys, when the Greatest Generation went from World War to Cold War, when an American president could extend his country's claims of manifest destiny out into space — this questioning of American exceptionalism must have come as quite a shock.
Reading it today, the specific material isn't so paradigm-challenging, but as it deals with perpetual truths and the search for meaning and authenticity, Butcher's Crossing is still important, engaging, and enduring. Spoilerish for the uninitiated. A phrase from a lecture from Mr. Gathered in by field and wood, he was nothing; he saw all; the current of some nameless force circulated through him. And in a way that he could not feel in King's Chapel, in the college rooms, or on the Cambridge streets, he was a part and parcel of God, free and uncontained. Through the trees and across the rolling landscape, he had been able to see a hint of the distant horizon to the west; and there, for an instant, he had beheld somewhat as beautiful as his own undiscovered nature.
Winding up in the small town of Butcher's Crossing, Kansas — led there by a letter of introduction written by Andrews' father to a Mr. McDonald; a hide broker and the only family acquaintance out west — Andrews is quickly directed to a Mr. Miller: a hunter and rugged mountain man who says that although the local Plains had been nearly depleted of buffalo, he knew of the location of the last great herd up in the Colorado mountains, and if a man were to back an expedition to hunt them, that man would make his fortune. Andrews seems more interested in experiencing the authentic West than in actually participating in a buffalo hunt or making money McDonald offered him safe opportunities for each , and as both Miller and his grizzled, one-armed sidekick seem to represent some kind of Emersonian ideal, Andrews quickly lays down the money for the expedition.
As the party these three men plus a skilled skinner named Schneider, along with a wagon, ox team, and horses head for the Colorado Territory, Miller begins to exhibit a kind of crazed single-mindedness for his mythologised buffalo herd that seems to telegraph tragedy: this is the old man determined to bring back the massive marlin without regard to his own safety; this is Captain Ahab pursuing the great white whale no matter how many lives are lost. As the party soon crosses a great wasteland — going forward without water at Miller's insistence while there would still have been a slim chance for survival if they turned back towards the river a day's walk behind them — the reader recognises this as hubris and can only wait for divine punishment; even at this point I knew that there must be losses and I constantly mused to myself what might be appropriate — to Williams' credit, it all plays out with perfect justness.
Although there may be some question about the existence of the buffalo herd on the journey out — it had, after all, been nearly a decade since Miller last saw it; could he even find the remote valley after so long? The beauty and timelessness of the valley is both Biblical and Emersonian in its remove from ordinary experience; but if Andrews had hoped to meet himself upon such terms, what he discovers is something else as the slaughter begins: He came to see Miller as a mechanism, an automaton, moved by the moving herd; and he came to see Miller's destruction of the buffalo, not as a lust for blood or a lust for the hides or a lust for what the hides would bring, or even at last the blind lust of fury that toiled darkly within him — he came to see the destruction as a cold, mindless response to the life in which Miller had immersed himself.
And he looked upon himself, crawling dumbly after Miller upon the flat bed of the valley, picking up the empty cartridges that he spent, tugging the water keg, husbanding the rifle, cleaning it, offering it to Miller when he needed it — he looked upon himself, and did not know who he was, or where he went. The plot from here plays out with exciting details, to end more or less where I thought it needed to go; but the plot is only the framework upon which Williams pins his philosophy.
So what of young Andrews' transformation? Despite forswearing bodily comforts and especially urban living with its painted lamps and velvet sofas , Andrews can't help but be focused on his body as he discovers that living close to nature is painful, brutish, and detaches him from life — more than once, conditions force time and space to pass Andrews by as though he were on a treadmill, as though he were not present in his life at all; surely this isn't what Emerson saw in a communion with nature? But if he shies away from the body and his transformation is to be a purely mental one, Andrews is further disturbed to have seen each of the men he's dealt with turn into if only briefly blank-staring automatons by their face-offs with nature and its deadly forces; could this really be all the fabled West had to offer?
Near the end, McDonald gives Andrews this view: 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 you could have done. Andrews is horrified by this speech — and mostly, I think, because McDonald seems to be talking about money and power and these things aren't really of interest to the young man; he knows that he gained more on the expedition than buffalo skins, even if he can't articulate it — and his repudiation of McDonald seems like a repudiation of American exceptionalism and its foundational myths.
When Andrews is ready to leave Butcher's Crossing at the end, it's with maturity and clear vision; he is finally able to engage with the world as it is, as a transparent eyeball, unsullied by preconceptions of what that world should look like. The writing in Butcher's Crossing is in the sweeping Western style, and read as just another entry in that genre, one might think it simply an interesting look at the last great buffalo hunt. But John Williams was a master of bending genre to his service and this tale is more Homer than Hondo; it cuts like sawgrass and lingers longer than a prairie sunset but it deals with hubris and hamartia and retribution from gods Olympian.
Absolutely loved reading this and thinking about it. View all 5 comments. Aug 16, Betsy Robinson rated it it was amazing. Andrews felt that the mountains drew them onward, and drew them with increasing intensity as they came nearer, as if they were a giant lodestone whose influence increased to the degree that it was more nearly approached. As they came nearer he had again the feeling that he was being absorbed, included in something with which he had had no relation before; but unlike the feeling of absorption he had experienced on the anonymous prairie, this feeling was one which promised, however vaguely, a richness and a fulfillment for which he had no name.
I am a vegan. So it was with some discomfort that I decided to read about a buffalo hunt. It was difficult. I felt sick to my stomach reading about the preparations to slaughter—for their hides—an entire herd of animals, trapped in a valley. The man writes with a pure life energy and depth of understanding, along with skill, flawless technique, and such visceral descriptions that, for a lot of this book I was in pain. And he looked upon himself, crawling dumbly after Miller upon the flat bed of the valley, picking up the empty cartridges that he spent, tugging the water keg, husbanding the rifle, cleaning it, offering it to Miller when he needed it—he looked upon himself, and did not know who he was, or where he went.
And after the evening of butchery, just when I thought I might throw up, an understanding of the horror: It came to him that he had turned away from the buffalo not because of a womanish nausea at blood and stench and spilling gut; it came to him that he had sickened and turned away because of his shock at seeing the buffalo, a few moments before proud and noble and full of the dignity of life, now stark and helpless, a length of inert meat, divested of itself, or his notion of its self, swinging grotesquely, mockingly, before him.
Although I find quite enough uninvited pain in just living, I understand the draw of everything from Outward Bound survival experiences to the Native American Sundance—where people go to their physical limits and maybe even beyond. But in all these rituals, the pain is experienced by the person who chose it: there is the risk of death, bearing unbearable pain. But the real violence is what they wreak on others—from the horses and oxen who serve them to the hundreds of buffalo they slaughter for SPOILER no apparent purpose other than the ritual of it. I read the last thirty pages of this book in a state of breathlessness. How would this end? My worst fear was that it would turn into a romantic noble cowboy fantasy.
Neither of those things happened. I will not spoil the ending. It is not a warm, comforting message, but it is true. My faith and trust in John Williams are validated. View all 16 comments. His imagery is vivid. You can almost hear the horse hooves and the Wagon creaking in the ground as they travel through Colorado. I once watched a video essay on the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, the Russian filmmaker, in which the essayist argued that Tarkovsky's strength lied in texture and sound. I think this is very much the case with Butcher's Crossing as well. It's an American western about human greed, about destruction, about faith and dreams and love. Most importantly it's about the Buffalo, and America's abuse of them. It is also clearly about capitalism and the profit-motive.
John Williams tells the story of a town that flew too close to the sun. A town that was enamored with greed and excess. Butcher's Crossing, the town, is very much like our own civilization, which is mighty near the sun. Butcher's Crossing is completely different from Stoner. Butcher's Crossing is a western. I'd argue that it's a very good Western. A "literary" one. It thumps, and loops and thirsts through what remains of the American wilderness.
View all 4 comments. Mar 30, Vince rated it it was amazing. Not my favorite John Williams book my heart will always belong to Stoner but still a fantastic western book; it's a fantastic book in any case. The novel centers around a young man named Will Andrews, who searches for a life of meaning and fulfillment and this goal leads him to a man named Miller, a buffalo hunter who takes Andrews on a trip to Colorado to hunt the last of the buffalo in the region. But it's not as simple as that. What starts out as a innocuous trip leads to them getting stran Not my favorite John Williams book my heart will always belong to Stoner but still a fantastic western book; it's a fantastic book in any case.
What starts out as a innocuous trip leads to them getting stranded by inclement weather and suffering from hunger. Will they survive the hunt? You'll have to find out for yourself with the read. Like all John Williams books, it's beautifully written, well-paced, and filled with unforgettable characters. A five star book and a high recommendation from me. Reading this book was like watching an archer shoot an arrow but in an ultra slow motion. Like watching those eyes squint at the target, the shooting arm pulling back the arrow while slowly building up the power in the tightening muscles, keeping the spectator transfixed and waiting for the moment of truth. And then it comes. The release of the arrow sans any blasting sound. Bull's eye. Yep, John Williams can pull a punch.
That too with glorious simplicity. You realize later that you have Reading this book was like watching an archer shoot an arrow but in an ultra slow motion. You realize later that you have been profoundly hit and you can do nothing about it. You find yourself submitting to it completely and absolutely. And after he is done, it becomes hard for you to recover and accept the other reality. The reality no more being shown to you in his mirror, but the one that you now have to endure. View all 12 comments.
Apr 09, Michael rated it it was amazing. The book that can disabuse anyone of the "romance" of the Western. A haunting and brilliant book. John 'Stoner' Williams' bleak and unromantic portrait of the great myth of the Western Frontier is a hard edged read designed to repulse the reader with its content whilst wallowing in the majesty of nature. LibriVox volunteers are helpful and friendly, and if you post a question anywhere on the forum you are likely to get an answer from someone, somewhere within an hour or so. So don't be shy! Many of our volunteers have never recorded anything before LibriVox. The roles involved in making a LibriVox recording. Not all volunteers read for LibriVox. If you would prefer not to lend your voice to LibriVox , you could lend us your ears.
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