"A wonderfully original and ambitious novel," the editors at Random House write of The Ferret's Tale. Strangely, this sentiment appeared in a rejection letter.---
This praise and others line the press release that accompanied former SFR Editor Robert Mayer's new book. In writing school, the teachers often told us to retain our rejection letters as something akin to a literary martyr's cross. But the compliments lavished on Mayer's novel speak to the state of the publishing industry and its readership as well. Publishers found the novel to be original and insightful, yet doubted it would have much of a readership.
The Ferret's Tale—which ultimately found a home with Combustoica, a label of About Comics in California—follows Cleo the ferret, a rambunctious and appropriately mischievous narrator, from her birth on a ferret farm to her time in a pet shop and to the family whose dysfunction makes up the bulk of the story's driving force.
Cleo's perspective is our readers' pleasure, simultaneously looking up (literally) and looking down (figuratively) at
everything that occupies her world. A boot towering above Cleo is a wonder of exploration and discovery, but she loses interest just as quickly, and each passing novelty is just a faded dream of her ferret's deficit attention.
Except one: the people. Cleo's relationship with the family makes up the largest singular interest of the book. Vain and inquisitive, the ferret comments on her own cuteness and irresistibility, while simultaneously expressing quiet bemusement at her status as pet. She is wise, however, beyond her status, which is necessary in this case for her narration to hold the reader's attention. Yet at times, the gap between what she needs to know for the reader's sake and what she can't know for the story's sake borders on the hokey. Still, it is a small criticism at best.
The language is lush and tactile, seemingly entangling the reader with Cleo's movements as her long, ferret's body romps through her explorations. The occasional subplots—wherein the reader is transported from Cleo's world to the perspective of a cell in the head of a lantern fish or an aphid under attack from ladybugs preparing to die—are strange and tangential, yet all are beautifully told.