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The Art of Asking (Signed Edition): How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help Hardcover – November 11, 2014
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"Amanda Palmer's generous work of genius will change the way you think about connection, love and grace."―Seth Godin
"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, New York Times-bestselling 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. Immediately, you notice that her world is really different from yours and mine. Amanda's world is more open, more vulnerable, more fearless, more messy, more surprising, more dangerous, more rich with human encounters and exchanges at every imaginable level. 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
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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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.
However, since this was the point of the book, she gave example after example of it. She asks people for places to stay when she's on tour, asks fans for lyric ideas on Twitter, asks people to play with her band for free during shows, asks fans to fund her next album. And I get it--if you don't like that she does that, all you need to do is not give her money.
However, it got OLD. She asked for this thing, and got it, and didn't that work out great? Same with this other thing! She also asked people for that, and they delivered! Wonderful! And then, this other thing, she wasn't sure if she should ask, but then she did, and...guess what?
You get the picture.
Surely there were times when she was asked for favors as well, and was happy to give them? I'm hoping this was the case and she just didn't want to brag too much. Because it comes off a little selfish to hear about all these times of people helping her and very few instances of her helping back.
If you are a huge fan of AP and would like to know every detail about her career, then by all means, this book is for you. I enjoy her music but I was far more interested in reading a memoir about an interesting life. And after the first half, I just could not find her life that interesting.