Morgan, Marlo: Mutant Message Down Under
(researched by Annette Martin)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Published by MM CO., Lees Summit, MO. 1991 The author herself, Marlo Morgan, published the novel. It was not widely distributed until a larger publishing company, Harper Collins, republished the book in 1994. It was then that Mutant Message Downunder earned its bestseller title. Source 1: examination of first edition, found at Heartwood Books, Charlottesville VA (804) 295-7083. Source 2: examination of book in Alderman Library stacks, Call Number "PS 3563.08712 M88 1994". This is not a first edition, but it is listed as so on Virgo. Source 3: information on publication supplied by Paul Collinge of Heartwood Books.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first edition was published in paper. Source: examination of first edition

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

102 leaves 8-1/4" X 5-1/4" 40 lines of text per page [13], 1-191 pages Unnumbered pages: title page, copyright information and author biography page, page of quotes, acknowledgements page, dedicatory page, blank page, introduction (3 pages), chapter index page, and 3 blank pages at the end of the novel. Source: examination of first edition

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

The author introduces the novel. She describes her meaningful adventure in Australia and asks that the reader "hear the message." The first edition is not edited. Source: examination of first edition

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

Illustrated by Carri Garrison. Along with drawing the cover art and the sketches on the title page and the dedicatory page, she contributed many illustrations interspersed among the text. All illustrations are in black and white except for the cover drawing which combines several shades of blue and beige in the work. 13 illustrations within the text: pps. 17, 24, 35, 51, 72, 76, 102, 104, 118, 122, 145, 166, 182. Source: examination of first edition

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The text size is fairly large. It is approximately 12 point serif. The margins are small: almost 3/4" on both sides and the top of the page and 1" on the bottom of the page. The text is presented attractively but the book lacks the appearance of sophisticated printing. Because the author published the book herself, it does not have the elegant flair of different fonts, chapter page and title page design, etc. that a renowned
publisher would focus on. Source: examination of first edition

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is of a roughcut, thick variety. The paper is holding up very well over time. It is not discolored or torn at all. Source: examination of first edition

11 Description of binding(s)

The first edition is paperback and the spine of the book is glued to the leaves within. On the spine, the lettering in blue ink states: MUTANT MESSAGE By Marlo Morgan. The cover, although slightly bent and stained yellow in places, is in good shape. Source: examination of first edition

12 Transcription of title page

In large, uppercase, boldface type: MUTANT MESSAGE / DOWNUNDER (downunder is printed from right to left and upside-down) / Author MARLO MORGAN / Illustrated by Carri Garrison Slashes denote vertical lines. Source: examination of first edition

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Marlo Morgan keeps her manuscripts at her residence in Lees Summit, MO. The manuscripts consist of the initial notes for her novel and the copies then made for her lectures. Source 1: Sue Sann, assistant to Marlo Morgan. (816)537-7660.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

It is apparent that the book was not edited because on the page with the copyright information and the author's biography, there is a typographical error. In the paragraph "About the Author", she uses the word "share" instead of the correct "shares". Also, on the page of quotes, the quote by Marlo Morgan is not punctuated correctly. Her use of the word "it's" is incorrect. The correct form would be "its". Source: examination of first edition

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

The original publisher, Marlo Morgan herself, did not issue the book in more than one edition. A larger publishing company, Harper Collins, bought publishing rights and has produced subsequent editions. Source 1: information supplied by Sue Sann, assistant to Marlo Morgan. (816) 537-7660. Source 2:

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

There is only one printing of the first edition in which 250,000 copies were made. Source 1: information supplied by Paul Collinge of Heartwood Books, Charlottesville, VA (804)295-7083. Source 2:

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Harper Collins first published the novel in 1994 as a hardback edition. In 1995, the company published a paperback edition. Harper Perennial then published it in 1998. Source 1:!sln_0+0 Source 2:

6 Last date in print?

Harper Perennial last published the novel in 1998 and it is still in print. Source:

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

The first edition, published by the author, sold over 250,000 copies. The total sales by Harper Collins amount to over half a million copies in the United States alone. By July 1998, one mill
ion copies of the Harper Collins editions were sold. Source 1: Sue Sann Source 2: Source 3:

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

This information was unavailable. Marlo Morgan's assistant did not have the figures and Harper Collins was unwilling to divulge that sort of information to the public. Source 1: Sue Sann Source 2: Harper Collins Publishers (212) 207-7000

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

I was not able to find an advertisement for the novel. Harper Collins launched a $350,000 marketing campaign around the time of the book's release, but I could not find evidence of advertisements. Source:

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

Marlo Morgan often gives lectures related to her novel. She not only discusses her novel, but the situation of the Aborigines as well. She has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show, phenomeNEWS radio show and many other programs. Source: Source:

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Harpo Audio produced an audio cassette version of the novel in 1994. It consists of Marlo Morgan personally reading the novel. In addition, United Artist Film Company bought rights to produce a film version of the novel and it is in the works. Source 1: Source 2: Source 3:

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

The novel has been translated into all the major European languages and has a worldwide distribution. The number of languages the novel was translated into amounts to 24 total. I wasn't able to find a list of all the languages, but I know the novel appears in the following: Las voces del desierto. Madrid: Ediciones B, 1997. To menyma. Athena: Ekd. Dioptra, 1995. Myutanto messeji. Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1995. Australie op blote voeten. Utrecht [Netherlands]: A.W. Bruna Uitgevers, 1995 Traumfanger: die Reise einer Frau in die Welt der Aborigines. Munchen [Germany]: Goldmann, 1995 Poselstvi od protinozcu. V Praza: Knizni klub, 1995. Voces del desierto. Buenos Aires: J. Vergara, 1994. K'uang yeh ti sheng yin: I k'o mei-kuo fu jen tsai Ao-chou sha mo ti hsin ling chih lu. T'ai-pei: Chih K'u ku fen yu hsien Kung ssu, 1994. Las veus del desert. Barcelona: Helios, 1997. E venne chiamata due cuori. Milano: Sonzogno, 1994. Source 1: Source 2: Source 3: Source 4:

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

The novel was not serialized. Source: examination of first edition

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

A sequel to the novel has been proposed. The name is The Last Farewell. Source:

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Marlo Morgan was born in Iowa in September 1937. After spending her childhood with her parents while she attended St. Agnes High School, she went on to pursue a lengthy education at Barstow Community College, Uni
versity of Missouri, and at Cleveland College where she earned multiple doctorate degrees in the field of biochemistry and oriental medicine. She moved to Kansas City, Missouri where she wed her husband and had two children, Steve and Carri. During this
time, she entered the Miss America pageant as Miss Kansas. After a period of 25 years with her husband, they divorced, which resulted in the commencement of Morgan's writing career. She retired from her job as a health-care professional after an assig
nment from a colleague that led her to Australia to work in the preventative health field. Her first novel, Mutant Message Downunder, began as a compilation of the adventures she experienced during her four-month sojourn in Australia.
Upon returning from Australia, she assembled the extensive notes based on her experiences with an Aborigine tribe called the 'Real People' so that she would be able to pass the knowledge she had gleaned from their lifestyle down to her grandchildren.
It was not until she was asked to give lectures on her experiences that she considered writing a novel from her research. After the completion of Mutant Message Downunder in 1990 at 53 years of age, she struggled to find a publisher that would be willing
to print the novel under its label. Unsuccessful, Morgan was forced to publish the novel herself with the aide of her family. Her son undertook the marketing and publishing responsibilities of the family company he and Morgan created, MM Co., and her d
aughter illustrated the work, resulting in its eventual release to the public in 1991. The novel became an immediate success, with an eventual sale of over 250,000 copies. Three years later, Morgan sold the rights of her novel to Harper Collins Publishe
rs for 1.7 million dollars. In addition, the United Artist Film Company bought the rights to the novel which is still a work in progress. It was then that Morgan hired an editor, Diane Reverend, as well as an agent, Candace Freshman.
The popularity of Mutant Message Downunder led Morgan to secure a spot on the New York Times bestseller list for thirty-one consecutive weeks and her novel was also published in twenty-four countries. The work was chosen to be the 1995 American Bookselle
rs Book of the Year and the alternate for the Doubleday Book Club. The book was deemed a Literary Guild Special Release when Harper Collins first published it in 1994. The novel continues to bring fame to Morgan and she still gives many lectures concern
ing the plight of the Aborigines. Following the success of her first novel, Morgan consequently published another work called Message From Forever on July 1, 1998. Morgan has proposed a sequel to Mutant Message Downunder entitled The Last Farewell.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Upon immediate release of the novel Mutant Message Downunder, Marlo Morgan was heralded by many readers for her profound teachings and charming writing style. The novel was soon thereafter pronounced a fraud, whi
ch proceeded to alter the opinions of many of Morgan's supporters about the book's worth. After Harper Collins Publishers released Mutant Message Downunder in 1994, the novel began to get attention from critical reviewers. The general consensus among
these commentators from magazines such as Booklist and People Weekly was to complain about her soap box New Age tangents in addition to her elementary writing style. A reviewer from People Weekly criticizes the novel for "dripping with New Age psychospea
k". Several reviewers do grant her with the success of writing a page-turning novel and even a review in Publishers Weekly describes the novel as a "spellbinding" and "compelling" account of her adventure in Australia.
Just as the opinions from professional critics of Morgan's novel are mixed, the general public is divided as well. Her reading audience is largely split between two groups: adamant New Age followers who cannot rave more about the spiritual message of th
e book and skeptics who disdain Morgan for her capitalization on the Aborigines and her deception of the public. The negative reviews of her novel are written mostly by professional critics, scientists, and scholars whereas the general public and people
holding New Age philosophies give positive reviews of her novel. The details about the Aborigine tribe and their more realistic grasp on life compared with that of Western society is the topic that dominates the controversy behind the novel. The exact s
ubject matter that she is praised for by her supporters is condemned by those claiming she is a phony.
Anthropologists and Australians both lead the campaign to discredit Morgan. According to anthropologist Jonathan Schwartz, "The book is total bunk?it also contained a number of ethnocentric references which bordered on racism". Several organizations suc
h as the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation and publications like The Washington Post have launched successful attacks upon the novel and have brought the fallacies of Mutant Message Downunder to light.
Although there are many skeptics of Morgan, there remains a large group of faithful admirers who do not doubt a word from the novel. Comprised mostly of New Age groupies, her devotees enjoy the spiritual aspect of the novel and label it as life-altering.
One female member of an on-line book club comments, "Marlo's sharing lulled me away from these modern day pressures and into calming truths we all know are deep inside?". Still others object to the highly controversial aspect behind the book and inste
ad urge people to look for the underlying message and avoid the trivialities concerning the novel's authenticity.
It is impossible to make a judgement about the overall perception of the novel because of the varying opinions. Morgan has certainly sparked a great deal of conflict, leading to the passionate reception of the novel by both her enthusiasts and bitter ene

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Due to the recent nature of the novel, there were no apparent discrepancies between the contemporary and subsequent receptions of Mutant Message Downunder. The novel enjoyed a short six years of extreme popularity (both positive and negative) but grad
ually disappeared from public scrutiny.
*The list of sources used to complete this assignment can be found in the supplementary materials.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

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" (
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 ( 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 (
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" (
). 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:
// 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
( 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 ( 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
' ( 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 ( 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.

Supplemental Material

Sources for assignment #4, reception and subsequent reception of Mutant Message Downunder: Booklist, Aug. 1994 v90 n22, p1992. People Weekly, Oct. 1994 v42 n15, p31. Publishers Weekly, Aug. 1994 v241 n33, p86. Publishers Weekly, Sept. 1994 v 241 n36, p18. Subsequent reception:'s-mutant-fantasy.html

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