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Mutant Message Down Under, Tenth Anniversary Edition Paperback – May 25, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Morgan's much-hyped first novel, a fictionalized account of a "walkabout" she took in the Outback with a group of Aborigines, gains from the use of authentic detail, although the storytelling is hindered by the author's heavy New Age agenda and incessant cultural proselytizing. A 50-ish alternative health practitioner from the American Midwest, Morgan was working with underprivileged Aborigine youths in the inner cities of Australia when a group of Aborigines offered her a chance to learn firsthand about their culture. Morgan's account of the tribe's customs, healing methods, food-finding tactics, etc. is absorbing, and her willingness to forgo Western luxuries and to relish the experience is courageous and touching. Less compellingly, the author claims that she was "chosen" by the Aborigines to tell the rest of humanity that the so-called "real people" are refusing to reproduce because of the ravages of Western civilization, and that Westerners have a limited time to clean up their act. Morgan's rudimentary writing skills are stretched to the limit, and she lessens the power of her story and its egalitarian lessons by adopting the perspective that Western culture is innately inferior to the naturalistic beliefs of the Aborigines. Still, with its high-powered package of New Age philosophy wrapped in an adventure narrative, this book may be the next Celestine Prophecy. (It is interesting to observe that both books began life by being self-published.) Illustrations by Carri Garrison not seen by PW. 250,000 first printing; Literary Guild Special Release; Doubleday Book Club alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The first incarnation of this spellbinding account of an American doctor's experience on walkabout in Australia was a "peaceful self-published work." As such, it stirred up quite a bit of controversy and sold more than 370,000 copies. Very few of these ended up on library shelves, however, and HarperCollins is banking on an ongoing demand with a 250,000-copy first printing, a decision bolstered by a Literary Guild special release designation. Does this quiet little book merit such faith and enthusiasm? Yes. Why? Because Morgan's spiritual journey is as compelling as any classical myth. Morgan has called her narrative a work of fiction to protect the identities of her Aboriginal guides, to conceal the locations of sacred places, and to let readers interpret her tale as they see fit. In fact, she wants us to be as open as she was when her adventure began. Morgan believed she was being taken to an awards luncheon for her work with urban Aborigines when, sporting a fancy new suit, she climbed into a jeep and headed out of town, but hours later, she found herself at the edge of Australia's outback clad only in a thin shift, watching her possessions go up in flames. Her guides, telepathic and spiritually advanced descendants of a 50,000-year-old tradition, call themselves the "real people" and refer to Westerners as "mutants." Morgan's trek across the heart of Australia involved a series of increasingly revelatory and even miraculous occurrences. This demanding journey transformed Morgan's work as a healer into that of a messenger with a message many are eager to hear. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
There are many other reasons to question the believability of the book, even if you haven't seen those two fairly famous Australian films and don't know much about the country or the culture. For example, the author mentions many times the various "healing plants" in the Outback that the "Real People" use for medicine and food, but the only plant she actually names is spinifex (and her description of that particular plant has been roundly ridiculed by the Australians posting here.) If these various outback plants are really as wonderful and beneficial as she says they are, why didn't she show her manuscript to a local botany specialist to help her identify them, so she could share them with the rest of humanity? Obviously, because a lot of them were simply made up.
There are just too many things to ridicule in this book, but I reluctantly gave it two stars because I did enjoy the creativity of the story the author wove (although she obviously plagiarized some of it from various other books and movies.) She should have just said the "Real People" were mysterious visitors from outer space and left it at that. Her New Age groupies probably would have believed it anyways, and then there would have been no offense caused to the poor aboriginal people who so rightly feel abused by her portrayal of them in this book.
PS--You can rent both "Walkabout" and "The Last Wave" on Amazon Instant Video for $2.99 each. Watch them yourselves if you don't believe that the author was influenced by them!
The book, while a reasonably good read as an adventure story, doesn't ring true. Besides the hard to believe claims like the idea that the aborigines communicate with mental telepathy and have miraculous powers of healing, it presents the aborigines as "noble savages" whose excrement literally and figuratively doesn't stink. People are people, no matter who they are. In any group of people there will be those who "smell good" and those who don't. Morgan's aborigines seem all cut out of the same cloth--little variation in personality. Any group of people who have survived as they have has to have had a good bit of genetic variation, which is part and parcel with personality variation. In addition, it was pretty amazing how the aborigine beliefs seemed so tailor made for a new age audience. Not one jarring belief amongst the lot.
The links I found while following the "apology" trail, however, do ring quite true. Little tidbits like the fact that the thorny spinifex grass that she claims she had no choice but to walk on actually grows in tufts, with paths between them. If she had to walk on them, she would've been leaping from tuft to tuft in the desert heat. There's a great website by the Dumbartung Aborigine Corporation debunking the book. Highly recommended.
I'm angry that I spent my money on this book. I'd like the author to repay me. It is wrong that she's made so much money exploiting the aborigines and people's interest in them.
The book is a fraud. There is no need to take my word for it.The book has been exposed clearly in other places on the web. Although listed as fiction, the disclaimer inside makes it clear that the writer does not intend for you to understand her experience as fiction. Many other reviewers have noted that the book is not accurate, and yet that the message is pleasing to New Age folks and the implication here is that because the message resonates with some, the facts don't matter.
People, facts do matter. Especially since this book is being taught in institutions of learning. When is it ok to tell a high school student that because the conclusion he/she came to is right, the facts used to support that conclusion are irrelevant? This is cheating at the expense of others, and it is deceitful, arrogant, and profoundly cynical. Hardly New Age.
The proper way to teach this book would be to have students read it, with no preparation. Have the students respond to what they read. Then have your students research what has been written and said about this book on line, and then have a discussion about ethics, ethics in publishing, ethics of borrowing someone else's culture to make money, etc.