Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer: Book Review

I hate asking for help. I don't like asking for someone to loan me money. I don't like asking to borrow a vehicle. I don't like bumming a ride. I don't like asking for a shoulder to cry on. I am a chronically independent person.

I think it was kismet that while I was reading this book I was also moving into a new apartment with almost no notice and no money. In the last week I've asked to borrow vehicles, washing machines, time, hugs and muscle power. I've had to ask for more favors than I ever cared to ask for. Luckily, I had Amanda Palmer's love of the world to help me in humbling myself and trusting my amazing family and friends, my personal network, in this process. (By the way, thank you to our friends and family who helped!)            

The Art of Asking
I've been a fan of Amanda Palmer, indie rock star turned author in this memoir/self-help-book/business-guide, since her Dresden Dolls days. I performed as the "Coin-Operated Boy" in a drag show performance of her popular song just months after I turned twenty-one and could legally go to bars. She has inspired me to put my art out there, to be true to who I am and to be okay with exposing my darkest and deepest self to the world in the way an artist must. Many people have discovered her through her endlessly inspirational TED Talk.

Amanda Palmer loves. She has an ongoing love affair with her fans, her husband, the world itself. She loves people. She loves life, even when she hates it. She loves the entire human family. And her love of the human family, the things we are capable of and the things we sometimes fail at, seeps out of every line of this book. This book will make you want to trust, want to love, want to feel comfortable relying on people, even in moments when you are making yourself incredibly vulnerable.

Palmer details her controversial experiences with media and social media. She describes some of her big mistakes in life, and some incredibly difficult positions she's been put in. But throughout the whole thing she is telling a story about how to rewrite our relationship with artists, and our relationships with fan if we are artists. She is allowing us, as a society, to entertain the idea of returning to embracing our artists, welcoming them back into the arms of society and off the pedestal, off the red carpet and from behind the velvet rope. She is telling a story about embracing the Indie artist as valid and real without a label or publishing house or art review telling us they are valid and real. She is telling artists to rely on their fans to help them, financially, emotionally and in building a rewarding career. To build a rewarding network of fans and followers that can catch the artist when she falls and boost her up when she succeeds.

Palmer is validating the artist who only sells a few hundred prints as just as important to the world as the one showing in art galleries in New York or Paris. She is validating the musician who performs for free at their friend's birthday parties as just as much a musician as the one topping the best-sellers lists. She is validating the self-published blogger who is just as much a writer as the one being reviewed in the New York Times.

This book is going to be a part of a collection of books that I return to often when I need a social and moral boost. Palmer reminds the reader that we are all human, we are all connected and we all need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be flawed. To be exactly what we are and to be proud of that.

The Art of Asking, like so many books, came to me exactly when I needed it, and I'll forever be grateful for it. I can't wait to finish unpacking my new apartment and place it in its rightful place beside the other books that inspire me to love life.

Next I'm reading:

Faery Tale: One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World
Calendar of Regrets

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