I know its a bit weird for reviewing an autobiography, because its this person’s own thoughts and feelings and LIFE I’m essentially critiquing. I like to read autobiographies out of sheer curiosity without feeling the need to judge them. But sometimes I read things that I just need everyone else to read too, and The Art of Asking is one such book.
A couple of years ago punk-musician/artist/general awesome human being Amanda Palmer was invited to do a TED Talk based on her experience of using Kick Starter to finance an album and tour. Her talk earned her a standing ovation and is probably one of the most watched talks on their website. Her Kick Starter earned over a million dollars and more hatred from musicians and the musical community than anyone would have thought possible for someone saying “hey, I need your help” from her fans.
The book sprang from her talk. 12 minutes became 352 pages (or 11 and a half hours worth of audio). It is an insight into Palmer’s mind, her history, her life with Neil Gaiman (my very favourite author), the loves of her life, and it is like she is speaking directly to you.
In her stories, her foibles, her Kick Starter campaign and the backlash from it, you find yourself. How you sometimes desperately need help but think of it as “begging”. I identified within sentences.
A particular similarity is the “money thing”, where I have felt ashamed to ask for help because it has meant I have failed in sorting my finances enough to be able to afford rent or to eat. It made me look at the other side, where my parents WANTED to be asked and will often feel like they aren’t fulfilling their part of the bargain of having children, of being able to afford to help me but having a stubborn child who will insist on repaying them.
Palmer retells her life as a living statue, which made me rethink those I see busking on the street, performing for me and in their own way asking for my help without begging. It’s a good turnaround in my mindset that, recognising that street performers are working not begging.
She talks about how she and Neil came to be together, and how their relationship is a continuous process of learning and working to understand one another. Its another bout of reassurance that life isn’t meant to be rosy and wonderful, it is a commitment and involves hard work.
But the main message of this book, what the stories and the insights into her life tell us, is that when we are open to asking, we open ourselves to possibilities beyond our imaginings.
This book is worth your time to read. Whether you like autobiographies or not. Whether you like Amanda Palmer or not. Whether you know who the heck Amanda Palmer is or not. It has life lessons that deserve to be learnt.
And if that doesn’t convince you at least give her talk a watch. It’s only 12 minutes. I’m sure you can spare them.