BooksReview

How Amanda Palmer Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

Michael Plassa ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

amandapalmer

Following up on her viral 2013 TED talk, Amanda Palmer released The Art of Asking on Nov 11th. The Art of Asking is sometimes a memoir, but reads like a conversation with Palmer, an artist who is certainly familiar with controversy, but even more familiar with the importance of connecting with her fans and asking them for support rather than forcing them.

Palmer first gained her fame in the early 2000s as singer, pianist, and songwriter for the revolutionary Boston “punk cabaret” act, The Dresden Dolls. More recently, Palmer has been in the news for being one of the first major artists to champion the concept of crowdsourcing, and building the most successful Kickstarter campaign of all time, raising $1.2 million for her second solo album, Theatre is Evil, in 2012. Palmer is well aware of the advantages which come with having a tight-knit community of fans to ask for help, so she begins her lesson on asking before her fame, when she was fresh out of college, making her money connecting with lonely strangers in Harvard Square as an eight-foot-tall “living statue” known as The Bride. Though much of the book is comprised of experiences like this from Palmer’s past, these stories are most often tied into one of the larger themes which are explored throughout the book. Sometimes, one even gets the impression that Palmer wasn’t sure of the effect which a particular event had on her until she finished writing about it, and while this would create a sense of uncertainty in the hands of a less proficient writer, Palmer’s unabashed, sometimes uncomfortable honesty serves these moments perfectly.

Fans of Amanda Palmer know that “uncomfortable honesty” is kind of her thing, and in none of her work is that more evident than in The Art of Asking. Palmer’s had plenty of major and minor mistakes hit the news over the past few years (indeed, controversy seems to have made up a good portion of her media presence this decade), and while the chance to write a book could’ve been used as a means of “clearing the air,” Palmer isn’t interested. There are moments where readers might wish that Palmer had handled or reflected on certain situations differently, but Palmer’s strength as an artist comes largely from her refusal to censor herself.

Amanda Palmer’s relationship with her fans is unlike any other artist in the music business, and this, too, is a focus of the book. Throughout the book, Palmer makes it known that the “art” is as important as the “asking,” and in so doing frames The Art of Asking not only as vessel for her unprecedented capacity for brilliant ideas (which some would argue may just save the music business), but also as a gloriously flawed but nonetheless glorious portrait of Palmer as an artist and as a human being.

Amanda Palmer’s tour behind The Art of Asking promises musical performances, conversations, special guests (including Palmer’s husband, author Neil Gaiman), and abundant connections. The tour kicks off in Cambridge at Porter Square Books on Nov 10th, followed by a date at the Royale in Boston on the 11th, and appearances in Philadelphia, New York City, Seattle, Toronto, and more. For a full list of dates, check out amandapalmer.net.

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