I’m one of those people who tends to devour books like a hungry lion ripping through meat; my eyes skipping across the pages as I long to discover where the plot leads and how the story unfolds. Sometimes, though, I stumble upon a rare book that I pore over – stopping and re-reading to let it all sink in, questioning what the words on the page are trying to tell me and how I relate to what’s in front of me. A book that completely captures my imagination, my emotions and makes me reflect and think.
The Art of Asking is one of those books.
For those of you who don’t know who Amanda Palmer is (although you totally should as she’s super rad), she’s a musician/artist/activist/general all-round badass chick who seems to be best known for her time in the (wonderful) Dresden Dolls and raising $1.2 million on Kickstarter to fund her album Theatre Is Evil. The latter led to her being asked to give TED talk which spread like wildfire online, and The Art of Asking followed. A memoir of sorts but also a personal reflection on art, society, love and much more, her beginnings as a human statue through to being put under the spotlight of the media and record company pressures.
Amanda is an incredibly fascinating, engaging person – from her complete dedication to creating art that truly represents her, to the grassroots growth of the Dresden Dolls, to her unwavering commitment to treating fans as friends. There are also moments within the book when she reveals her uncertainties, mistakes and perceived flaws – something that’s hard to find in the glossy world of today’s media. The section on Amanda’s time as a living statue is particularly well covered, and the concept of ‘gifts’ is really interestingly mused upon – and all relates back to how we as human beings are often so adverse to asking for help.
What makes The Art of Asking so very special though, beyond just being a fascinating insight to the world of such an interesting creator and person, is the beautiful and sometimes brutal moments of honesty presented within the pages. Her openness is incredibly inspiring and fresh, which makes the whole book a really personal and powerful read. Amanda’s worries about the thoughts of others, her experience with abortion and her close relationships are frankly addressed, with complete soul-bearing raw emotion. However, as dark as some of the moments in the book are, much of the book gives a sense of joy and happiness, as Amanda empowers fellow humans to embrace ‘The Art of Asking’.
Amanda has a rare ability that many people in the ‘spotlight’ seem to lack – inspiring others to embrace their inner self, truth and emotions. There are so many women out there who other women regularly proclaim they want to BE – but Amanda provides a different kind of inspiration. Instead of presenting a perfect image cropped into little boxes on a beautifully filtered Instagram, she reaches out to people, valuing making connections with ACTUAL PEOPLE over projecting a neat, pretty-pretty lifestyle. She embraces the imperfect, the messy and the unusual with an open heart and mind, and truly has a passion for her art and the people that inhabit her world.
For anyone who has an interest in creating – be it through art, music or just putting SOMETHING out there into the Universe – this is an absolute must-read. In fact, even for those without a creative bone in your body, READ THIS BOOK. I really hope that in years to come, I can pass my well-thumbed copy down to children, relatives and friends, and that it speaks to them in the way it speaks to me.