PRINT December 2017

Books: Best of 2017

Rebekah Rutkoff

“In Russia, the inability to live up to one’s dreams of self . . . seems to have released a particular form of male sadness, traced with disappointment and violence, humming under everything, blooming like radon from the dusty ground.” In Nicholas Muellner’s hefty and sumptuous picture book In Most Tides an Island (Self Publish, Be Happy Editions), moving narratives of the author’s encounters with closeted gay men in the remote provinces of Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea are intercut with a fictional vision of vivid-dreamer Isabel, who lives on an unnamed Caribbean island. Muellner, a photographer and a cofounder of the Image Text Ithaca MFA program at Ithaca College and its associated press, writes with a tenderly fused restraint and passion, a style perfectly attuned to the book’s investigation of the psychic skin that keeps one consciousness separate from another. Muellner’s own mesmerizing photographs, in both color and black-and-white, serve as the third element in this unusual, braided book: Each effects a genuine arrest and alters the expected rhythm of reading itself. Muellner’s extended portrait of male sadness is thus also a collection of thrills: turquoise windows and waters, bizarre landscapes, and the majestic chaos of palm trees.

Rebekah Rutkoff is the editor of Robert Beavers (Austrian Film Museum, 2017) and the author of The Irresponsible Magician: Essays and Fictions (Semiotext[e], 2015).