Hunted Down and Other Tales by Marcus Clarke is now available for the historically-accurate price of $7.95 pph (the approximate current value of one shilling from 1875).
The second edition doesn't contain the elaborate packaging or inserts (boo!), but it retains the book's brain-spinning typographic play and advertising in-jokes (hooray!). The text from the original book's circus poster and newspaper clipping are reproduced directly in the pages.
From the outside, the book takes its cues from the tiny short story collections Clarke published in the 1870s, but, inside, Clarke’s stories give way to a series of increasingly intrusive remixes.
It begins with two original stories by Clarke, unmodified.
Hunted Down is a fourth-wall-breaking precursor to modernism where Clarke’s own characters attack the author for making their lives so miserable. It appears here in its original length for the first time (we think) since it appeared inThe Australasian on 6 May 1871.
The Poor Artist, the story that inspired this book, resonates with the same sharp observations on creativity and failure today as it did in 1872.
Then we start remixing.
How the Circus Came to Bullocktown was already a wild and chaotic story but here it has a remix toolbox thrown at it: the text is annotated, (almost) deleted, and formed into typographic puzzles.
The Poor Writer is a ‘beat by beat’ remix of Clarke's 'Poor Artist', relocating much of its setting to Facebook messages in a contemporary Australia.
The final story with the unlikely title Hi, I’d Like To Add You To My Professional Network on LinkedIn remixes ‘Hunted Down’ with remixer Simon Groth taking the place of Clarke. The story begins with Groth’s previously published characters accosting him as per the original story, until Marcus Clarke himself appears, incensed at the butchery that is happening with his work.
One surprising discovery from Clarke's original published books was in their advertisements, typically featuring breathless spruiking for local businesses and flagrant disregard for tasteful typography.
In making this new edition, we first researched original ads from the era. As a Brisbane-based publisher, we favoured our own local businesses, turning up some surprising discoveries and one or two still familiar names.
As the book progresses, original advertisements for hotels and insurance brokers from the past give way to more contemporary products like botox and hipster bars, before finally arriving at automated suggestions for other products and user-submitted reviews.
The first edition of Hunted Down and Other Tales arrived as a mysterious package, a book in a muslin bag. The bag is marked ominously with the legend ‘Rumours of My Death’, and on the back the hastily scribbled hashtag #RoMD.
It was a highly bespoke package limited to only 100 copies.
In addition to the text, the book included inserts where the stories literally broke from the page: a circus poster, a beer coaster, a newspaper clipping, and a business card.
There are few things that come to mind for us at if:book and we'll be writing about them in coming months:
But we're interested in what you make of it too.
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Simon Groth is a writer and editor of fiction and non. His short fiction has been publishing Australia and the United States and his books include Concentrate and Off The Record: 25 Years of Music Street Press. Simon has, since 2010, led if:book Australia, a project of Queensland Writers Centre that experiments with and explores the technologies of writing and reading. Simon’s work and reporting on how readers engage with digital publishing has seen him travel the globe to discuss and explore the challenges and opportunities for writers in a digital space.
Marcus Clarke (1846–1881) was a novelist and poet best known for his novel that would later become known under the title For the Term of His Natural Life. He was also a prolific short story writer, commentator, and columnist until his all-too-early death. Much of his writing strikes a chord with the working freelancer, full of energy and wit and looming deadlines. His stories are fuelled by a cocky confidence in the new nation emerging around him, but hints of anxiety gnaw at its edges.