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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.

The irreplaceable: A tribute to John Clarke (1948–2017) by Morag Fraser

May 2017, no. 391 27 April 2017
Years ago, when I was editing a magazine, John Clarke would occasionally ring, sometimes to discuss what might have been called business, but, more often, just out of the blue. John would talk and I would listen. And so would the entire office staff – listen. They’d get the cue from our wily receptionist, pick up their extensions and stop work for the duration of the call. If they’d had an e ... (read more)

Morag Fraser reviews 'Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a spy's son' by Mark Colvin

March 2017, no. 389 22 February 2017
Mark Colvin’s fine memoir – of a journalist’s life and as a spy’s son – was completed before the Macquarie Dictionary chose ‘fake news’ as its word of the year, and the OED and Merriam-Webster opted for ‘post truth’ and ‘surreal’. In July 2016, as Colvin was writing his acknowledgments chapter, Donald Trump was being nominated as the Republican candidate for the presidency of ... (read more)

Missa Solemnis (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)

ABR Arts 31 August 2016
How fortunate was Rudolph Johann Joseph Rainer, Archduke of Austria. In his short life (he died at forty-three), he enjoyed the privileges of empire and the high positions that accrued to his noble state – including the ecclesiastical roles of cardinal and archbishop. Yet we would hardly remember Rudolph had he not been also the chosen pupil of Beethoven, and patron and dedicatee of Beethoven's ... (read more)

Monteverdi’s Vespers (Melbourne Recital Centre)

ABR Arts 01 March 2016
Reaching for an English word to capture the shifting rhythmic pulse of his Concerto Italiano's performances of Monteverdi, director Rinaldo Alessandrini hazarded 'elasticity'. 'Is that the word?', he queried ABC Radio National's Andrew Ford (who had suggested 'freedom'). It was, yes, and Ford went on to ask, 'Like jazz?' Exactly. Amazingly. Like jazz. As alive, unpredictable, and fresh as a great ... (read more)


ABR Arts 08 February 2016
Film publicity is rarely subtle, so don't see Brooklyn if you are looking for the love-triangle tearjerker that its release poster promises. A film with its source in the spare, luminous writing of Colm Tóibín – as perceptive about women as any man writing – is never going to be standard Hollywood fare. Brooklyn benefits also from thoughtful direction by Irishman John Crowley (whose credits ... (read more)

Morag Fraser reviews 'The Secret Chord' by Geraldine Brooks

October 2015, no. 375 24 September 2015
Geraldine Brooks credits her son, Nathaniel, with sparking the idea and title for her latest novel. For his bar mitzvah, Nathaniel chose to play an arrangement for harp of Leonard Cohen’s famous ‘Hallelujah’. It begins with these lines: ‘Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord / That David played, and it pleased the Lord.’ Music is crucial to Brooks’s novel – the warp to its narra ... (read more)

A Schubert Journey, Three Song Cycles (Melbourne Recital Centre)

ABR Arts 13 July 2015
When the stars align, in art as in astronomy, the results can be exhilarating and revelatory. This winter in Melbourne, as July’s ice began making itself felt, you could hear some of the greatest music ever written out of seasonal and psychological darkness – Franz Schubert’s three song cycles, Die schöne Müllerin (The Lovely Miller-Girl), Schwanengesang (Swan Song), and Winterreise (Winte ... (read more)

War Requiem (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) and Ian Bostridge (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)

ABR Arts 23 June 2015
‘Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges,’ wrote Herman Melville. The truth about war, as Benjamin Britten ‘tells’ it in his War Requiem, is ragged indeed. A glance at Britten’s score is indicative – there on the page are the black skitterings of brass and strings, a motley percussion, a solo soprano voice soaring over Latin choruses that alternate (or intersect) ... (read more)

Reading Australia: 'Journey to the Stone Country' by Alex Miller

Reading Australia 20 May 2015
There is no recommended apprenticeship for writers. Nor are there any prescribed personal or professional qualifications. Hermits, obsessives, insurance clerks, customs officers, women who embroider, men who write letters, public servants, soldiers, drunks, provincial doctors and gulag inmates have all become great writers. How? A mystery. But avidity – about the world and the people in it – h ... (read more)

Morag Fraser reviews 'Can't and Won't' by Lydia Davis

March 2015, no. 369 01 March 2015
Reading Lydia Davis’s stories is akin to getting new glasses – or glasses for the first time. Suddenly the world shifts into sharp, bright focus. Disturbing. Disorienting. What you see, or understand, won’t necessarily gladden your heart. It may pique it, but you may not want to be brought so close to life, to the poignancy of it all. Not at first, anyway. Davis seems to think so too. Or sh ... (read more)