The publication of Marlo Morgan's first novel, Mutant Message Downunder, in 1991 succeeded to hold the attention of Americans long after its publication date. Several years later, after Harper Collins bought rig
hts to the novel, Morgan's book remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 31 straight weeks. Although most professional critics did not grant Morgan's first work with positive reviews, the popularity of the novel sprouted from the New Age audi
ence, human rights activists, environmentalists, and others. Nearing the millennium, the moral convictions of many people who acclaim the novel are especially trendy and are not dying out but intensifying, guaranteeing the continued readership of the boo
k into the next century. Just as the reception of Mutant Message Downunder is both positive and negative, the same reactions is applied in relation to the perception of Marlo Morgan herself. The individuals who praise her novel deem her a spiritual comf
orter while those who condemn her novel perceive her to be a quack. The truth behind the mystery of the author and her novel remains unsolved and will not be resolved because both her defenders and prosecutors are rooted in their ways. The dispute surro
unding the work is inconsequential, however, because the majority of Morgan's reading audience would rather disregard the moral implications of the novel and experience it for its sheer entertaining quality.
The obscurity behind Marlo Morgan and her novel, Mutant Message Downunder, is attributed to the fact that there is no sound evidence of her authenticity. The controversy of her first work angered many readers who labeled her an imposter, trying to promot
e herself and make some money at the same time. Her public persona has two distinct facets: to some she is respected as a genuine humanitarian, though to others she is solely an opportunist capitalizing on and exploiting the Australian Aborigines. Profe
ssional opinion generally regards her as a phony, whereas a large following of ordinary readers perceive her work to be an insightful, factual account of her experiences. A reader from Tennessee reviews Morgan's novel and states, "Marlo Morgan's stor
y is one of personal strength, courage and growth! Her eyes were opened to a entire culture foreign to her own. And they were opened to the truths of her own culture" (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0915811197/ref=sim_books/002-8947363-6027466).
The anthropologists and Aborigines who protest against the inaccuracies of Mutant Message Downunder consider Morgan's faithful admirers to be naïve and uneducated. Several critics express an anti-American sentiment due to the fact that many of Morgan's
American readers are not concerned with the legitimacy of the book and do not understand the falsity with which Morgan represented the Aborigines. A critic from Kirkus Reviews comments, "The conflation of fact with fiction, and the assumption that the d
istinction doesn't matter, is bothersome. In any case, it's the old story: An earnest person strides out into the world and returns--a New Age prophet glowing with the wisdom of indigenous cultures--to tell us that we are living life out of balance" (ht
Morgan attempts to present herself as a changed woman to the public as a result of her experiences with the Aborigines. In numerous interviews, she describes herself before her adventure as a superficial, worldly woman with dyed hair and a cell phone (sh
e even won the Miss Kansas beauty pageant). She then explains that during her time in Australia, she learned the true meaning of life and no longer regards things with the same importance. In an interview, Morgan reports that the journey influenced her
because, "My relationship with everybody really has changed a great deal. I really do believe that we are caretakers of the Earth and we are here to be a support system for one another. That is a part of our spiritual assignment" (http://www.phenomenews.c
om/archives/oct1998/morgan2.html). These apparent drastic changes in Morgan's life lead her readers to sympathize and respect her whereas those who question her validity claim even these comments are part of her money-making scheme.
Regardless of the novel's critics, the work has worldwide fame (but is especially acclaimed in America) which can be attributed to several factors. As the twenty-first century draws near, Western society is comprised of many different groups of human ri
ghts activists and environmentalists who campaign widely against injustices towards mankind. Morgan's novel especially appeals to the interests of these groups because of her tendency to preach about the grievances of the Western world and the necessity
of renouncing the materialistic principles of this era. Her novel, which emphasizes the importance of finding one's spiritual self, not only portrays the Aborigines as having a more valuable approach towards existence but also denounces the widespread
waste of human resources and its affect on the environment. In her novel, Morgan conveys the protest of the Aborigines towards the deterioration of the ozone layer, the increase in radiation levels and acid rain, and the pollution of the seas in order to
deliver a caveat to her readers (http://www.comngrnd.com/mutant.html). Both supporters of human rights as well as individuals concerned with the plight of the environment herald the message in Morgan's work.
Not only do these ideologies persist as the next century approaches, but the fascination with New Age philosophies prevails as well. Morgan herself is a proponent of such New Age practices as alternative healing through acupuncture and chiropractics. Th
e emphasis in her novel of appreciating the inner spirit and rejecting worldly possessions captivates a large following of New Agers. According to Denise Cuthbert, Senior Lecturer at Monash University, "The focus of [my] concern is the ways in which the
New Age, in certain practices and certainly in its publications, takes it upon itself to represent the culture of indigenous peoples. I mean, we're concerned about representational practices which perpetuate racial stereotypes and which deny indigenous
people the right to represent their culture themselves." Cuthbert adds that the New Age market is a means for fortune making, apparent in Morgan's case, due to her exploitative work on the culture of Aborigines (http://www.geekgirl.com.au/geekgirl/007te
nt/koori.html). The numerous New Age websites on the Internet often list Mutant Message Downunder as recommended reading, indicating her popularity with these organizations.
In addition to her ability to appeal to these groups, Morgan also succeeds to fascinate a large percentage of the general public. During this age of inquiry, the West finds satisfaction in probing into the mystery of that which is unknown. As seen by th
e popularity of the magazine National Geographic and the documentaries on The Learning Channel, America in particular has an interest in learning about other countries, especially developing nations. According to anthropologist Jonathan Schwartz, "It see
ms Ms. Morgan has tapped into a Western love of the "other" and the exotic, but she has also exploited her 'subjects'? A classic romanticizing of the other" (http://www.anatomy.su.oz.au/danny/anthropology/sci.anthropology/archive/december-1996/0563.html
). Morgan's shocking accounts of the eccentric and simplistic rituals and beliefs of the Aborigines enthrall the imaginations of the readers, leading them to associate that which is foreign with primitiveness. A female reviewer remarks, "[The book] act
ually opened my thoughts and interest towards these so fascinating people. Even if the book is not all true - there is probably at least some truth in it and that is enough to make the Aboriginal people extraordinarily interesting and fascinating" (http:
//www.pleiades-net.com/choice/books/MM.1.html). This response directly represents the colonialist mentality which the novel conveys to the readers.
There has been considerable precedence to Morgan's sort of work in the means of anthropological accounts of other cultures as well as in works addressing the exploration of inner spirituality and the meaning of life. Morgan's style is comparable to the
1960s and 1970s anthropologist and author, Carlos Casteneda. Just as Casteneda was questioned often about the credibility of his writings on shamanism and the Columbian lifestyle, so too is Morgan questioned in reference to her reports on the Aborigines
(http://www.castaneda.com/intro/article.html). The two authors were both successful in forming many enemies while attracting a large group of supporters to their teachings as well. Morgan's work also resembles those of contemporary authors Lynn Andrew
s and James Redfield who both address the topics of the significance of selflessness and immateriality through examples from other cultures. The common disillusionment of Western society is an inspiration for the writings of Casteneda, Andrews, Redfield,
and Morgan and contributes to their bestseller status.
The popularity of this genre of literary work is not diminishing which is apparent by examining current novels that hit the bestseller lists. The soul-searching, spiritual novels in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series by Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canf
ield always appear on the New York Times bestseller lists (http://www.soupserver.com/). Furthermore, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey's immensely popular book club has developed a New Age mentality with a focus on the importance of 'Remembering Your Spirit
' (http://www.oprah.com/remember_your_spirit/related_reading.html). Mutant Message Downunder itself has not dwindled in popularity either since its initial period on the bestseller records. Harper Collins was forced to release another edition of the no
vel in 1998, four years after its first printing with the company, because of the high readership demand. Though there have been extensive efforts by certain groups such as the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation to damage Morgan's reputation due to her e
xploitation of the Aborigines, her second novel, Message From Forever has had a large selling record since its release in 1998 (http://dumbartung.org.au/).
The achievements of Marlo Morgan's novel, Mutant Message Downunder, are partly attributable to the current ideologies of society. Morgan's work addresses the current concern with the destruction of the environment, the rights of mankind, and the desire
to analyze areas of the world that are still fairly peculiar. These issues that are presently hot topics attract many readers to her novel. In addition, participators in the New Age movement relate to the spiritual messages that Morgan includes in her
book. Morgan's ability to touch upon considerably questioned notions of contemporary society is what makes her such a controversial character. The denial of Western exploitation of other countries is still prevalent and Morgan reinforces the colonialis
t mentality through misrepresentation of the Aborigines. Although she enraged many peoples because of her supposed distortion of Aboriginal culture, Mutant Message Downunder is likely to remain popular because of Morgan's exciting and spellbinding tone.
The majority of the population would prefer to read the novel for its useful message and entertainment value and disregard the controversy regarding if the book is fact or fiction. The reputation of similar novels that preceded Mutant Message Downunder
, such as those by Casteneda and Redfield, remains, and so shall it be with Morgan's work.