The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, review by Melissa Fox
At first glance, it's probably easy to dismiss Amanda Palmer's new memoir, The Art of Asking. You don't know who she is. You've heard of her, but don't like her music. You don't really want to read a memoir by yet another musician/celebrity anyway.
The thing is, much like Amanda Palmer herself, this isn't a typical memoir.
Nominally, this is an expansion of her TED talk of the same name. But, it's much more than that. Instead of simply writing about her life and experiences, Palmer chooses, through reflections on her time as a street performer and through interactions with her fans, to look at the interpersonal connections she's made. And, as a result, she explores how asking -- for things or for help -- is a lot of what makes life really worth living.
Because she is a musician, Palmer frames these musings in musical terms. Her kickstarter raised over $1 million, and she's trying to explain how that happened, that it wasn't an overnight or even a fluke thing. But what she ends up writing about -- that there are ways to ask that aren't begging, and that the connections we forge with one another are what make asking possible -- is applicable for everyone. It definitely got me thinking about gifts, especially meaningful ones, and art, and the value we place on both.
It is, however, probably not a book for everyone. Palmer is a very frank person, which means that sometimes she -- either in what she talks about, or in the way she says it -- will possibly rub the reader the wrong way. On the other hand, her frankness means that Palmer is honest about herself, the music business, and relationships in a way that is very refreshing.
It is not a perfect read; in fact, my one complaint is that it is often meandering. Palmer's storytelling is circular, dipping back and forth through time -- from her time in college, through her marriage to writer Neil Gaiman -- which sometimes makes it difficult to follow. It also means that she revisits the same ideas more than once. But, if you're willing to give into the meandering, it's worth it for the ideas -- and her experiences with -- about art, connection, and how it makes life more meaningful.