What is art? To a sculptor it may be the formation of beauty from stone, or some other material; to a writer the forming of words into poetry or prose. The creation or retelling of myths and wonders, bringing to them a new understanding—but beauty as well. To the Elizabethan poet Sir Philip Sidney, in his Defense of Poesy, “lifted up with the vigor of his own invention, [the poet—or, indeed, the artist in general] doth grow, in effect, into another nature, in making things either better than nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature, as the heroes, demi-gods, cyclops, chimeras, furies, and such like.” And so it may be proper that the book we have here, The Tears of Isis, begins with a poem about a sculptor, a modern Medusa, and concludes with the title story of another sculptor who travels a continent for inspiration, in search of the goddess, “the Weeping Isis,” and ends with discovery of her own self.
But The Tears of Isis, the book, is a journey too, encompassing, yes, “forms such as never were in nature,” as not just “La Méduse,” but also a man’s soul absorbed by an octopus, vampires both physical and metaphorical, music and retellings of Cinderella, an Ancient World caper involving the Golden Fleece of legend, a far-future recasting of Sleeping Beauty—one of three stories in The Tears of Isis set in the author’s world of the “Tombs,” another “Tombs” tale of the origin of ghouls, cockroaches spawned by war, insects by UFOs, Lovecraftian monsters called forth by candles, a woman who takes in a rat as a pet, the “death planet” Saturn and women who buy birds, the life-cycle of dragons, another “Tombs” story of love and a zombie-like form of revenge, and at last to Isis—her search to create but destroying as well, as is part of her nature, and back full circle to sculptress Medusa who “spoke to her hair at times” and “in her dreams . . . her hair hissed its/ answers.”
Are these tales, then, her doing, the fever dreams of one who both creates and dismantles, who transmutes life itself into stone? And are Medusa and Isis the same, the goddess who, with her consort Osiris, rules over death and life at the same time, taking the form of both nurturing mother and flesh-eating vulture?
It is for the reader to decide.