It is rare for me to fall so headlong in love with a book that I forsake the stack of all other review books sitting next to me and finish the one in my hand: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking is one of those precious books that connects like an electrical wire to a bare hand. Well known for her work in the Punk Cabaret band The Dresden Dolls and her solo project (as well as being the wife of author Neil Gaiman), Amanda is a complicated mix of creativity, guilt, and explosive love.
The Art of Asking is part self-help book, part memoir, but all in the beautiful confessional style of a woman who bares her soul as easily as she bares her body. The book is full of love and appreciation for her fan base, but she also admits to some deep dark uncomfortable secrets from her life and her past. Palmer began her performance career as a living statue known as “The Bride” in Boston. She speaks of her desire to truly be seen, a desire we all feel from time to time.
Palmer’s biggest message is the encouragement to be open and to just ask others for the love and support we deserve. She demonstrates this with revealing snippets of her life with Neil Gaiman, showing their strength and weaknesses rather than trying to hide behind a perfect veneer. The love between the two is palatable, even as Palmer describes some of the most difficult times in her life. She also describes her connection with Anthony, a therapist and mentor who helped shape her beliefs on love and compassion. She admits wholeheartedly her fears and moments of blind unadulterated panic at being “discovered” by “The Fraud Police.” Palmer is not perfect, but she is the first person to admit that. She has been the center of debate and received her share of death and rape threats. She speaks of the ugly fear that comes with being hated for speaking out, but does not allow herself to hide. Palmer allows herself to be seen and to be felt.
Love Amanda Palmer or hate her, The Art of Asking goes past her TED talk with arms open for a huge hug and words of encouragement for those who are too scared to ask for the help they need. I challenge any artist, performance or otherwise, to read this book. Though Amanda Palmer has gone on record saying she plans to not read any of the review of her book, I hope she knows that The Art of Asking has power to crack open the door of a depressed heart and whisper gently “it’s okay, I see you too.”
The Art of Asking is available November 11, 2014 from Grand Central Publishing.