You Shall See the Beautiful Things: A Novel & A Nocturne (Paperback)
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Envisioned as a “nocturne,” Steve Amick’s playful, multilayered novel expansively retells Eugene Field’s famed verse “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.”
In the fishing village of Scheveningen in 1889, three men build and secretly launch an unorthodox fishing vessel, departing from the long tradition of netting herring using massive boats and large crews. Collaborating in this venture are Wynken van Winkel, a cavalier joker and opium addict currently AWOL from the Aceh War in Sumatra; Ned Nodder, a seasoned fisherman trying to support his family while plagued by narcolepsy and prophetic dreams; and Luuk Blenkin, a scattered young troubadour failing at love and searching for his place in the world.
As formally innovative as the “picarooner” this mismatched trio construct, the narrative lifts off into the fantastical, flitting between reality and irreality. Sparked by lines of the “Dutch lullaby,” the inexplicable adventure unfolds—and along the way, we learn of Wynken’s romantic recklessness, his broken relationship with his father, and the tragedies of war that scarred and changed him. We witness Ned’s unconventional path toward matrimony, as well as the painful loss that made his marriage a true union. We follow Luuk’s fumblings for purpose and fulfillment beyond the disgrace that befell his family and marred both his outlook and his prospects.
In the spirit of a nocturne, Steve Amick envelops his characters in the world of night and dreams. Lyrical, historical, surprising, magical, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, You Shall See the Beautiful Things will make readers look at the stars—and herring—in a new light.
About the Author
Steve Amick is the author of the novels Nothing But a Smile and The Lake, the River & the Other Lake. His work has appeared in Playboy, McSweeney’s, Zoetrope, Southern Review, Story, Michigan Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and on NPR. Amick has taught as part of MFA programs at Northwestern University and Pacific University. He lives in Michigan.
"Wynken, Blynken, and Nod have never been so ingeniously revived as in this rollicking romp of a book! In You Shall See the Beautiful Things, Steve Amick creates a zany world that, ultimately, shows us more about the tenderness of the human heart and the mysteries of this star-filled world."
— Ellen Bass, Chancellor Emerita, Academy of American Poets
"Love this this sweet, clever, and gritty retelling of the 'Dutch Lullaby,' the one about the army deserter opium addict, the lovesick balladeer with a voice like 'an ill-fitting oarlock,' and the radish-eating narcoleptic—in a boat. Yet it's no joke: Amick’s language is inspired, as transcendent as the inaugural fishing trip in the small craft these unlikely friends build at the edge of the North Sea. Every page is filled with marvelous revelations about the nature of the world and about being human. Amick’s vivid landscape of the 1880s herring-centered world even includes glimpses of Vincent 'Cent' Van Gogh. Here, despite the weight of colonialism, war, and financial and family struggles, folks with open hearts can still find magic and goodness, can still live lives 'mostly full of awe.' You Shall See the Beautiful Things is a promise delivered."
— Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of "Mothers, Tell Your Daughters"