Book Review: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (4/5)

26 May

The woman who runs one of my book clubs is a self-proclaimed HUGE Neil Gaiman fan. As a result, she added his wife’s memoir to our list for the month. I’m a huge memoir fan and I’d heard of Amanda’s band, The Dresden Dolls, but only in passing and though I listened to ‘Coin Operated Boy’ once in high school, I wasn’t hooked and never bought a CD or anything. I was interested to hear about this singer who captured the heart of one of the world’s most beloved writers.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

I think this book will touch each listener in a different way. I wasn’t particularly interested in her rise to rock-star status or how she learned to play the ukulele. I was more interested in how she could be so trusting and how she could overcome the stigma of asking for help. I’ve always had trouble asking for help when I needed it. I was impressed with the things she asked for and how much she trusted in everyone around her. It’s so different from how I live my life. I’m not mean or reclusive, to be sure. But I don’t air my shortcomings and ask for help to overcome them. I force my way through. Amanda wouldn’t do that.

I’m always amazed when I meet artists because they are so reliant on other people’s opinions of them. I find it hard to understand how someone can trust that people will like what they make and pay money for it. I loved seeing Amanda’s doubt and love in this system. She doubted the traditional music industry and trusted her fans to do what each thought was the right thing to do. It was really touching to hear her story because it’s so different from what you hear from other artists. The whole book made it more believable.

I loved when Amanda talked about Anthony. He was my favorite of her friends. He was the person she came back to when everything seemed beyond control and he made Boston her home all the time. I have a friend who travels a lot but whenever he’s in town, we have lunch. Maybe I’m his Anthony. Except the getting sick part. I loved how Amanda canceled her tour to be with him and how understanding all of the fans were. There are things we have to put aside for the ones we love and I’m glad she could do that.

Amanda was hard for me to relate to. She’s so different from me that I couldn’t see myself in her shoes, doing the things she did, saying what she said, and wanting the life she had. It was hard to see myself in her but reading this book helped. It helped me see why she was the way she was. I could see why she could trust as strongly as she did. I think other people’s lives are fascinating and reading this confirmed that.

Amanda Palmer Image via TED.com

Amanda Palmer
Image via TED.com

I liked Amanda’s origins as a living statue. I thought that was the most interesting part of the story and it’s where I learned the most about her. She kept coming back to the Bride and what being the Bride taught her. I’m glad she explained how this was where she learned to be herself and it shifted my impression of street performers a lot. I understand how they are artists.

Hearing about her abortion and subsequent depression was very hard for me. I can’t imagine the pain going through with that brought to her. I have very conflicted feelings on abortion to start with and hearing about Amanda’s struggle with it is muddling my feelings on it. I’m sad for her, to say the least. I wish she hadn’t had to go through the pain physically and emotionally that it brought to her.

Palmer narrates the audiobook herself. It’s fun to have her sing bits and put songs into the audiobook. My biggest complaint about her narration was the sound level. Sometimes, she would whisper and I’d have to turn the volume up to hear her and the next second she’s freaking out and yelling and I almost went deaf. The sound mixer should have made it more consistent so this wasn’t an issue. Other than that, I loved having her tell her own story.

Amanda things we can still trust in humanity and that people are genuinely good. She couch surfs alone and with her band all over the world. She lets people write on her naked body at a house party and lets her fans carry her around at shows. She trusts that people are looking out for each other in a day when we’re taught to trust no one and be out for only ourselves. That was refreshing and amazing, but it didn’t quite convince me to trust everyone I see. Not yet.

Writer’s Takeaway: I was a little confused by the timeline of the book. Amanda was telling her story from college to modern-day, but put in the story of her romance with Neil Gaiman as a sort of back-and-forth. I couldn’t tell where the Neil parts fit in with the Amanda parts. I thought they were concurrent until one point where she mentioned the book project where she first got involved with Neil toward the end of the book. I thought they’d been together that whole time! Having a clear timeline is something I’m a strong proponent of and something I will look for in my writing.

Fun to listen to and a good read about someone completely different from myself. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Amanda Palmer: The art of asking | TED
The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer | The Writes of Women
The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer | Lavender Lines
A book review- The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer | Act Like It’s Normal

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11 Responses to “Book Review: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (4/5)”

  1. Anna at A Wondrous Bookshelf May 26, 2016 at 10:36 AM #

    Great review!

    Like

    • Sam May 26, 2016 at 5:00 PM #

      Thanks! Take a minute to watch the TED talk if you can. It’s pretty similar to the book, though much reduced. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Erica Danielle B May 26, 2016 at 10:49 AM #

    This has been on my TBR since she mentioned she was releasing a book. Palmer fascinates me because she leaves herself so vulnerable and has this infinite capacity of trust in everyone while I’m pretty much the opposite. This review gave me more incentive to listen to it via audiobook (love when authors narrate their own memoirs!)

    Like

    • Sam May 26, 2016 at 5:01 PM #

      Yay! Yes, it’s great to hear her talk about her mentality. I’m like you and it’s hard for me to trust as much as she does but the book helped me open up to trusting the people I already love. Happy reading!

      Like

  3. citygirlscapes May 26, 2016 at 11:04 AM #

    I’ve had this book for a while but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. But it sounds like it’s something I should get to pretty soon. Thanks for the review! – ashley

    Like

    • Sam May 26, 2016 at 5:02 PM #

      No problem! It’s a really interesting read, even if you know nothing about Palmer. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. alilovesbooks May 26, 2016 at 5:20 PM #

    I can’t believe you weren’t fascinated by how she learned to play the ukulele 🙂 I’m such a nosy person I do love hearing about other people’s lives but have never read a memoir. This does sound like it would be very interesting as it’s always those who are most different from you who are the most fascinating (and I’m sure incomprehensible at times)

    Like

    • Sam May 26, 2016 at 5:32 PM #

      Very true! I think reading memoirs helps me write characters better because I’ve crawled inside someone’s head already. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Loreen May 27, 2016 at 2:26 PM #

    I want to read this in theory because I too love Neil Gaiman. But. Amanda Palmer is a different story. After reading your review I have to say I’m still on the fence about reading it.

    Like

    • Sam May 27, 2016 at 3:07 PM #

      I don’t know much about Neil but it sounds like he and Amanda are very different people. I wouldn’t equate interest in one for the other. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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