The blurb: Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world’s most successful music Kickstarter.
Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn’t alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.
Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love.
My review: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking should be mandatory reading for every artistic soul on the planet.
Told in a series of anecdotes that ranges from childhood right up until the point that the book went to print it teaches you about life, love, and giving yourself permission to create. And yes, amongst other things this means asking for help when you need it. The tales are told in a linear fashion. They jump from her earliest street performances, to her wedding to Neil Gaiman, back to her being in The Dresden Dolls, and forward to her recording Theatre is Evil. You’d think this would lead to a chaotic mess of crazy, but somehow, with Palmer, the crazy just works.
She speaks of the Fraud Police, and worrying that she should feel ashamed that she’s only making art and doesn’t have a “real job.” She tells you about the struggles she’s gone through (for the sake of her art and battling other various demons). She tells you about falling in love with Neil Gaiman.
And I want to take a second here to point out that if you are a fan of Palmer or Gaiman at all, you should read this book just for those anecdotes. Not only are they adorable, but they make me feel so much better about the fact that my marriage is what I like to call “functionally dysfunctional.”
She tells you all about Anthony, with such detail and obvious feeling that at times I was jealous that I didn’t have an Anthony. While at other times, I felt like Anthony was my own. She talks about communicating with her fans as if they were just a wide circle of friends, which to her they are. And it made me realize that I may never be able to have that kind of connection with my fans, because that is all just so … Amanda Palmer. And that’s okay. Because I’m allowed to be special in my own way.
She taught me that too.
And I wish I could tell her how much this meant to me on an artistic level. I’d recently been … almost hating myself for not producing art (books) that my more alternative friends might enjoy. “I just write romance,” I lamented to one friend, “and usually smutty romance.” And while I no longer chastise myself for what I read, I wanted to write something meaningful to impress my friends. I wanted to be Neil Gaiman. But while listening to this book, I realized that I had to let that go. That those are just my demons talking, and I cannot listen to them.
So thank you, Ms. Palmer, from the very bottom of my heart.
Even better, I listened to the audiobook version. Read by Palmer, it was like she was talking to me, maybe in a small café while we ate scones and drank overpriced coffee. And when she said “I see you,” and “I love you,” I could believe those messages were meant for me.
And based on what I know of Ms. Palmer, it was.
Again, I thank you, Amanda. (May I call you Amanda?) You gave me just what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.
I’ll close this review the same way I started it:
Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking should be mandatory reading for every artistic soul on the planet.
Reviewer’s postscript: I borrowed all of these images from Google Image Search. None of them belong to me and I’ve been agonizing for hours over including them. In the end, I decided to go for it, because they’re pretty and make me happy. I’m sorry, Amanda and copyright holders. I’m a total dick.