John Williams’ “Butcher’s Crossing”

It is hard to overstate the writing craft of John Williams; his narrative is clear and precise and his characters compelling while his ruminations on our place in this world are profoundly vertiginous. 20140830_114502Butcher’s Crossing is the story of a group of men engaged in the slaughter of buffalo:

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 itself, swinging grotesquely, mockingly before him. (151) SlaughteredBuffalo1874Sometimes at night, crowded with the others in the close warm shelter of buffalo hide, he heard the wind, that often suddenly sprang up, whistle and moan around the corners of the shelter…at such times he felt a part of himself go outward into the dark, among the wind and snow and the featureless sky where he was whirled blindly through the world. (200)20140221_160008