Ever had an admiration crush? I’m prone to them. Teachers, friends, mentors. All of them with something that I aspire to. I deeply want to impress them, be like them in some way.

Often when I read a book, listen to a piece of music, or watch a film, these crushes develop. They can be accompanied by physical attraction (see the musicians), but mostly it’s a kind of affection.

I want to share some of these with you, people who make me gush, go fuzzy, and feel inadequate at my inability to possess their spark, their luminescence, their intelligence. I will explain each in turn.

Lit Crushes

Gail Jones

Do I look excited?

It all began with Sixty Lights. The luminous descriptions reminiscent of Michael Cunningham but with a distinctive femininity. Knowing I was going to the Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Fest 2006, I decided I must meet her. But what do you say when approaching a Lit idol? Things became harder after I heard her speak – eloquent, elegant, and articulate. I pedestalised her and put myself in the dirt. I imagined a glow around her whenever she entered a room, untouchable. How could I ever write like that, speak like that? I trembled and threw looks at her like she was hyperreal.
I spoke to her twice, once mumbling and seeking an autograph, the other, fortified by wine and haunted by the awareness of the ineloquence of my own voice, the bluntness of my words. I tried so hard not to gush. I talked to her about Michael Cunningham and The Hours. She said she had been on a panel with him once at a festival and had been overwhelmed herself… She wished me luck with my writing and took note of my name. She was truly encouraging and sweet. We share a passion for film too. I have since been awed by Dreams of Speaking (see the review on my MySpace blog), and Sorry (Review forthcoming in Australian Women’s Book Review).

Sylvia Plath


I first read The Bell Jar as a teenager and instantly related to much of Esther’s confusion, dark sarcasm, and her awareness of the decay of her own innocence, and even the welcoming of it. I followed with Sylvia’s poetry. My favourite is Tulips. And just this year I have read her journals. It’s strange, but in the journals, Sylvia felt that Virginia Woolf somehow spoke to her through her own work – and I feel that with Sylvia as well. The other voice in my soul is Marilyn Monroe, but I will get to her in film. With these three women I empathise and sometimes I can’t even explain why. I feel like I would have loved to have spoken to them in private, that we would have had so much to talk about. I have cried for all of them before. You will see much of my writing devoted to these women over the years.

Dirk Pitt

I know, he’s a fictional character from popular adventure novels – but if anyone has ever become hooked on Clive Cussler’s books, they will know where I am coming from. Any serious literary buff who snubs the popular fiction section is seriously missing out on one charismatic dude. He shits all over Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon. Any writer would envy Cussler’s creation. He is handsome, strong, caring, genuine, generous, sexy, and just so god damn cool. But whatever you do, don’t read the early novels, start in the nineties… before then, well… let’s just say Pitt was a little too masculine (chauvinist pig *cough*). He hadn’t yet had his heart broken. By the time he’s in his forties, say around Valhalla Rising, Trojan Odyssey, he is irresistible. I haven’t read Lee Child yet, but I’ve heard Jack Reacher is also pretty damn cool.

Richard Dawkins

Intelligence is sexy. And this guy is the bee’s knees of smart. I am ashamed that I have only read one of his books so far – but you have no idea how large my ‘to read’ list is. The God Delusion is witty, and so necessary. Dawkins uses science to acknowledge that we cannot prove that God exists. But the point is – in a world without God, without any afterlife from any religion, time is so precious. The true moral to the book is – live every moment! I find that more enlightening than the ignorance and denial fostered by any religion.

Clive Hamilton

Another guy who gets you thinking. Ever noticed how much we rely on ‘consuming’ for our happiness? We need the newest version of everything – our status depends on the newness of our clothes, the technology we carry. We (Australia) are a nation with massive credit card debt. But in Affluenza, Clive Hamilton gives us workable solutions to ‘downsize’ our lives. I feel one of the biggest problems of my generation is that we’ve grown up in this consumer climate. We’ve been offered so many choices as children we can’t focus on one path in our life, one partner, one place. We are never satisfied. There is a lot more to it, but Hamilton followed co-writing this book with Silencing Dissent (about the Howard Government, also co-authored) and Scorcher: the Politics of Climate Change. He is an important voice, and one that I will certainly continue reading.

Joyce Carol Oates

Not only is she prolific, but if I could ever write so many books so well as her, I would be set. I would also like her range – she not only writes absorbing literary novels, she writes short stories, poetry and drama. She is also a prominent literary critic. She also teaches, and edits a literary journal. I aim to be the Australian version of Joyce Carol Oates. No small task!

Shakespeare

Much has been said about the Bard, but no one can fault his genius. We know so little of the man, but how complex and magnificent are his works? How dark, inspiring, intuitive, and mind-blowingly human? My favourites would have to be Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard III and Romeo and Juliet. However, I have not read them all. Nor have I been privileged enough to see many live. Only King Lear. The film versions vary in their effectiveness. I look forward to a great many years of reading, viewing and rediscovering Shakespeare, again and again.

Moving Musicians

Robert Plant

Those gyrating hips, that feminine twist of the hand. The Led Zeppelin frontman oozes sexuality, just listen to songs like Since I’ve Been Loving You and the rockin’ Black Dog. Of course, Jimmy Page’s guitar does a fair bit to help along the screaming tight-jeaned bare-chested frontman. He may be old and crusty now but that voice is still reminiscent of long-haired freedom, stoned-out crowds, and rolling around in the long grass on a sweet sunny day.

Roger Waters

The mastermind behind Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The dark, sad, lonely voice speaking out against oppression. My favourite songs – Goodbye Blue Sky, Young Lust, and Comfortably Numb. There are so many themes in the album and film of The Wall, it reads like a work of art, a piece of literature. Some grate with my feminist nature, because Pink blames women for much of his downfall (the mother, the partner). But the mother joins the other authority figures (teacher, dictator, church, establishment) as a voice of oppression. Pink cannot escape the rigidity of this world – being just another brick in the wall, except in the fretting distemporal echoes of his songs…

David Bowie

2004. Reality Tour. 12th row back. Song – Be My Wife. Bowie looked at me! Absolutely cross-my-heart true story. I have been a major Bowie fan since I was sixteen/seventeen. Seeing him live was like an out of body experience. Favourite albums – Hunky Dory and Scary Monsters. Somewhere inside me is a David Bowie trying to get out. An eccentric, slim, expressive, moody-song-singing alien-type middle-aged man. Other Bowie fans would understand.

Jim Morrison

Michael Hutchence and Kurt Cobain almost made it, but Jim Morrison wins in the stake of tragic musical poet figures. His smoldering black eyes, his whole life devoted to seeking out the dark underbelly. ‘Ride the snake’ – converse with sacred spirits. He knew his destiny was simply The End.

Here’s one of his poems from The Lords and the New Creatures:

Cancer city
Urban fall
Summer sadness
The highways of the old town
Ghosts in cars
Electric shadows

Screen Dreams

Marilyn Monroe

Everyone thinks they know who she might have been. I become upset when thinking about her life. Driven to dreaming after a childhood spent with various parent-figures. Making it as a model and young actress because of her body. Put under the scalpel, told how to act, told how to be. Ridiculed when she wanted to do serious roles, marry a playwright, and start her own production company. Tragic because she was conflicted. Her rawness made her sexy, sexiness earned her attention and work, work that she didn’t want to do depressed her. She unfolded, layer by layer, and people kept using her, exploiting her, laughing at her. Then those she trusted – her Doctor, her Directors, fed her drugs, rejected her, added to the cycle, and ultimately, killed her. I will write much more about Marilyn in the future.

Angelina Jolie

On screen she has lost it in the last few years. Her life has found more important avenues, and causes. This is all fair enough. But watch Gia or Girl, Interrupted and you will see her when the darkness was a fire of talent. Before she had her humanitarian outlet. When her passionate nature had to be expressed raw on screen. We know now that film is just a job for her. It’s a shame because when she tried, when she truly acted, she helped people too. She related to people. But I guess she found other ways to do that.

Bill Murray

Who can’t love the guy? From the genius Venkman in Ghostbusters to the raw traveler of Lost in Translation and the Wes Anderson films, to the absolute sad-sack of Broken Flowers, I just want to HUG Bill Murray. It’s true that the funniest people are often the most melancholy. You can find humour in, and deplore, the same aspects of humanity. Something tells me Bill Murray has always had a sixth sense about life, love, and people. When I watch the behind-the-scenes footage on the Lost in Translation DVD I totally relate to Sophia Coppolla’s love for him, her need to write a role just for him.

Mark Ruffalo

This crush is brewing. The guy has talent and style, and he’s totally democratic. He speaks out for liberal arts in America. He chooses cool film roles. See his character roles in Collateral and Zodiac.

Christina Ricci

Ever since The Addams Family and Casper. The goth kid. Then there was The Ice Storm (does anyone have a copy of this movie? I need it!). Her gothic side got another working in Sleepy Hollow. Then she personified Elizabeth Wurtzel in Prozac Nation and made the wounds of depression in the late 80s/early 90s visible. She’s also a producer. In the same vein of crushes (stemming from my childhood and teen years) are Drew Barrymore, and Winona Ryder.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett is destined to have a long career. Not only is she talented, she is quirky, and chooses quality film roles (Ghost World, Lost in Translation, A Love Song for Bobby Long, In Good Company, Match Point). Even her forays into the blockbuster have been worthwhile (The Island, The Prestige). Every woman would be envious of her impossible waist and her sensual curves, her lips like pillows…

Meryl Streep

Legend. Absolute f**king legend. Impossibly real on screen. Never seems like acting. See The Hours and Adaptation for just two examples. I would love to have a conversation with her.

Wes Anderson

Okay so I’m only going to include one of my favourite directors. I also have mini-crushes on Sam Mendes, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sophia Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, and others, not to mention screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (and others), but Wes wins for capturing poignant quirkiness. His films represent loneliness in groups, misfitting together.

I want to be a Tenenbaum!

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