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Morag Fraser

Morag Fraser

Morag Fraser was Chairperson of ABR and was for many years Editor of Eureka Street. She is currently writing a biography of the poet Peter Porter.

Morag Fraser reviews 'True History of the Kelly Gang ' by Peter Carey

November 2000, no. 226 01 November 2000
You can’t escape the black square with the ominous slit: it’s about as familiar and inevitable in Australia as the icon for male or female. Ned’s iron mask now directs you to the National Library’s website of Australian images. There it is, black on red ochre, an importunate camera, staring back as we look through it. It’s modernist, postmodernist, merged into desert art just as surely a ... (read more)

Morag Fraser reviews 'Leeward: A memoir' by Geoffrey Lehmann

January-February 2019, no. 408 18 December 2018
The poet James McAuley once told a group of Sydney university students – ‘forcefully’,  as Geoffrey Lehmann recalls – that poets should have a career unconnected with literature. Lehmann had already imbibed a related injunction from his mother:  ‘One day she told me I should become a lawyer and a writer. From the age of twelve I no longer had to think about what I would become.’ ... (read more)

Morag Fraser reviews 'Dark Victory' by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson and 'Don’t Tell the Prime Minister' by Patrick Weller

April 2003, no. 250 01 April 2003
Dark Victory opens with a coup: in a deep-etched narrative, joint – and seamless – authors David Marr and Marian Wilkinson make human beings out of the anonymous acronyms of John Howard’s border protection strategy. Explicitly rejecting the gulag language of numbers, of SUNCs in SIEVs (Suspected Unauthorised Non-Citizens in Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels), they begin with people – stirrin ... (read more)

Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

ABR Arts 16 October 2018
On 6 March 1948 – a mere seventy years ago – the paintings that comprise this stellar exhibition of ‘Modern Art’ from St Petersburg’s great cultural repository, the State Hermitage Museum, were condemned in a decree by the Council of Ministers of the USSR as ‘the bourgeois art of Western Europe, bereft of ideas, anti-national, formalist, and of no interest for the progressive education ... (read more)

L’Enfance du Christ (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)

ABR Arts 20 June 2018
‘People who don’t like tunes don’t like Berlioz.’ Thus, the late Colin Davis, famed English conductor and Berlioz exponent, said in 2007 about L’Enfance du Christ. Davis, in his wry, gently combative English way, and with a burnished reputation behind him, didn’t have to care about musical fashion or despised tunes: ‘That doesn’t make any difference to me. I love them.’ And so, ... (read more)

Morag Fraser reviews 'What Are We Doing Here?: Essays' by Marilynne Robinson

May 2018, no. 401 24 April 2018
At a recent Passover Seder in Melbourne, I caught the word ‘Gilead’. ‘My favourite book!’ exclaimed the woman opposite me. I was a Catholic guest at a gracious Jewish table, so I whispered my query: ‘Marilynne Robinson’s novel?’ ‘Of course!’ came the emphatic reply. The Seder ritual was suspended for a moment (informality was part of the evening’s graciousness) while people ask ... (read more)

The Dream of Gerontius (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)

ABR Arts 13 March 2018
Edward Elgar’s great work of poetic soul-scouring and symphonic grandeur had a mired reception at its première in Birmingham in 1900, years before Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring sparked its famous riot in Paris in 1913. Both composers had stretched the tolerance of their audiences, requiring open minds and an ear for new tonalities. Elgar had the additional misfortune of an insufficiently prepar ... (read more)

The Lady and the Unicorn (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

ABR Arts 16 February 2018
One of France’s great treasures, the five-hundred-year-old, six-panel tapestry series called The Lady and the Unicorn, is in Australia for four months, courtesy of some fortuitous inter-museum contacts, and deft work by the Art Gallery of New South. A loan of such significance usually takes years to negotiate. This one was finalised and mounted at warp speed (one might say). Don’t miss it; it ... (read more)

Morag Fraser reviews 'Martin Luther: Rebel in an age of upheaval' by Heinz Schilling, translated by Rona Johnston

November 2017, no. 396 25 October 2017
Australia’s politicians may be too mired in power skirmishes to notice that 31 October 2017 marked the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s trumpet blast of the Reformation: the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, his ‘Disputation on the Power of Indulgences’, on the bulletin board of a castle church in the provincial university town of Wittenberg. Pity. Even self-serving men might ... (read more)

Das Lied von der Erde and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)

ABR Arts 03 July 2017
Schubert’s most famous ‘unfinished’ work, the Eighth Symphony, is unconventional in a number of ways, its B minor key and the opening movement’s 3/4 pulse not least of them. Mahler’s grand Lied is a match in strangeness – setting, as it does, a miscellany of ancient, wry Chinese poetry to music that is supremely European, for all its oriental reference, and absolutely of its time – i ... (read more)