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The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help Paperback – October 20, 2015
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"A book unlike any other I've ever read. . . a book I'd have no problem recommending to everyone I know. My mother, my best friend, my work friends, my Facebook friends, my LinkedIn contacts, even the people I meet on the street or see on the subway when I commute to and from work. It's that important and that groundbreaking. This book is not just someone's brave and personal journey from childhood to her life as an artist, but it also addresses why and how it's so hard to look into someone else's eyes and be real, and ask for help when we need it. . . . Palmer has, not to put too fine a point on it, ripped open her chest and exposed her heart for all to see. She's written her truth - and it's at once brutal and gloriously, importantly beautiful."―The Huffington Post
"'The Art of Asking' is a compelling read, easily the most universal work she has ever done."―The Boston Globe
"Much as Anne Lamott offered 'instructions on writing and life' in Bird by Bird, Amanda Palmer will be instructive to anyone who struggles with fear of the 'no.'"―Shelf Awareness
"This is the kind of book that makes you want to call the author up at midnight to whisper, 'My God. I thought I was the only one.'"―Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess and author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened
"To read Amanda Palmer's remarkable memoir about asking and giving is to tumble headlong into her world. At first, you find yourself thinking, 'Goodness, what a crazy world that Amanda Palmer inhabits! How does she possibly endure it?' Then, gradually, as you read along, a doorway opens up in your heart, and you realize, 'I want to live in a world exactly like hers.' God willing, this book will show us all how to do it."―Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things
"Amanda has a direct line with her audience-a lifeline for them and for her, the codependency all truly great performers surrender to . . . She's capable of anything, incapable of telling anything but the truth."
"A story about a life in one dollar bills, from statue to icon, where media doesn't matter, crowds do. Mandatory reading in the digital age, for aspiring artists and their doubtful parents."
―Nicholas Negroponte, founder, MIT Media Lab
"Amanda Palmer joyfully shows a generation how to change their lives."―Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be a Woman and How to Build a Girl
"Amanda Palmer's generous work of genius will change the way you think about connection, love, and grace."
―Seth Godin, author of Tribes
"From this beautiful, heart-wrenching story of art comes an incredible account of the nature and future of commerce."
―Lawrence Lessig, author of Free Culture --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Amanda Palmer rose to fame as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist for the acclaimed band The Dresden Dolls, and performs as a solo artist as well as collaborating with artists including Jonathan Richman and her husband, author Neil Gaiman.
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When I heard she had a book coming out, I definitely wanted to read it. So I grabbed a copy, and tore through it in a couple of days. It was one of those books people like to refer to as "unputdownable" (though I really hate that word) or maybe "gripping" -- as in I was gripping the covers, refusing to let anyone pull it out of my hands.
I really enjoyed the book, as it gave me a lot of insight into Amanda's mind and personality, two things that fans will definitely have a lot of insider information on already. But guess what? The stuff she does won't work if she's not at the center of it all. She's found her tribe, and she's pulled each member in close by being real with them, one on one. Whether that was at live shows, in the signing line, via email (back when email was new and weird), on Twitter, or through "ninja" shows that she throws together at a moment's notice or by crashing at their house with her band, her success has clearly come from connecting with her people -- the people that get what she's doing and support it. And all of that is intensely interesting, as she details how she did all of this and why.
Some reviewers have noted that this is a book that will give you a lot of info about how things work for Amanda, but not for anybody else, and I would agree with that to some extent. However, that's also the point: this isn't a self-help or how-to book (despite Amazon's placement of it in both categories). It's a memoir.
That being said, if you think there's nothing you can apply to your own life after reading this book, you should read it again. There are lots of great things you can take away from Amanda's story (and the various mini stories woven in throughout), whether you're an aspiring artist, a struggling artist, a world-famous artist in need of some human connection, a fan or even a hater. It got me thinking about how I used to write, back before I went to school to study creative writing and "learn" how to be an artist. And it's got me pondering other things, too, like why it's so frustrating when people stand there staring at me instead of just saying, "Hey, can I ask you something?" or why my first reaction, a lot of the time, is annoyance instead of acceptance or compassion. Why I rebel against sappiness and oversharing, but also avoid those too clever for their own good. Why it's important to me that people be "real," but I am terrible at spotting the phonies. Why asking for things is, indeed, so difficult -- even when it will help, even when it's necessary.
Am I one of AFP's rabid fans? No. But this book certainly made me see her in a different light, and within its pages she has given me plenty to ponder, and therefore it is completely worthy of all 5 stars. Well done, Amanda. And thank you.
P.S. I love the "blender setting" analogy used towards the end of the book. It's a great way to explain fictional works to those that insist on reading them nonfictionally, and especially autobiographically.
What an interesting book on many levels. On one, it's the coming-of-age memoir of an odd, bright kid. On another, the struggle of a performer/musician from barely feeding herself to international fame (and deciding to reject the traditional recording label to return to indie--that was fascinating.) On another, it's the memoir of a woman who has developed the ability to ask for and receive help, and yet one of the greatest challenges of her life is to allow herself to accept monetary help from her wealthy husband. On another, it's a businesswoman's depiction of how to build and grow a business, and her version of that her fans are really her partners. She's so involved with them I don't see how a person could really have a family at that pace, and I think she's okay with that.
Palmer alternates introspection and musing about life's lessons with anecdotes about her life. The book is well-paced, fascinating, interesting, dramatic, funny, horrifying. I shed tears more than once. My takeaway/bit of life learning from the book: the act of receiving is an art, a life skill. So many of us are ashamed to receive, when in fact it's an act of love to receive well. It's not easy. We feel unworthy or guilty or obligated when we receive, but that's a waste of grace. I'm going to work on that. I enjoyed the book immensely.
I can't recommend this book enough. No, it's not a step-by-step plan to help you learn to ask without the fear of hearing no. It's a memoir. It's a life story. It's honest and direct and it pulls very few punches. Palmer grew up in Massachusetts in a, if not wealthy, at least reasonably comfortable family. Yes, she's had some advantages, but she never took advantage. She left college to pursue her dreams- art and music. She spent countless hours dressed as a bride, busking for the dollars people would drop in her box in return for a flower from her bouquet. But it wasn't the "begging" that was important. Nor was it the realization that she could make more money as the Eight Foot Bride than at her job at the ice cream shop. It was here that she first began to understand that what most people wanted was just the one, tiny moment of connection. The moment when the Bride, up to then still and disconnected, would bend down to present a flower with a flourish and a moment of eye contact. That bit of interaction would become the cornerstone of her whole career.
She tells her story in small scenes, vignettes that jump around in time a bit. Through it all she is honest and doesn't gloss over the less than pretty parts. Because even for her, the woman who created the most successful Kickstarter campaign of an musician, the woman who did whole tours sleeping on the couches of fans who she didn't know other than email or Twitter, the woman who could announce a "ninja gig" in a park just hours before it happened and have hundreds or even thousands of people show up for music, conversation, and communing, there were many moments of doubt and fear. Moments when she worried about how she was going to ask for one more thing from people who had already given so much. And it is compelling reading.
As I said, this is not a self-help book, but it did teach me a lot. It made me rethink the way I look at Art and what qualifies for that label. You don't have to know who Amanda Palmer is, and you don't have to be a fan of hers or appreciate her sometimes unusual music, to understand what she is saying here. But I think if you read The Art of Asking, you will become a fan of Amanda Palmer, the person.