Reading the Art of Asking I could see myself skirting around the edges of a party too shy to join in, but enthralled, both wishing for and fearing a slice of the spotlight.
Amanda Palmer would be right in the centre of that light, thrilling everyone with a combination of courage, shamelessness and vulnerability. She would be fully present out there in the light, singing and playing no doubt.
Later when things got quieter, we might have a chat in the kitchen.
The book tells Amanda’s journey from living statue to the multi talented artist with singer, songwriter, pianist, ukelele player, writer and death model just some of the hats she wears.
In her book she shares several wonderful things; her long work building her relationship with her fans, her relationship with her husband Neil Gaiman and with Anthony. Seeing these play out on Twitter, it looks easy and natural so it’s good to read about the reality. These relationships are good and fulfilling but they all take work and effort. There is no shortcut. The fans can misinterpret a poem, Neil can be a repressed English man and Anthony could be a grouch. Amanda herself is not shy about her moods.
Viewing art or any creative endeavour as an exchange makes sense even when the exchange involves intangibles like a moment of intense connection or a smile from a living statue and tangibles like cash. But cerebral sense does not always translate to the heart so easily. Especially for someone with an irrational fear of asking or admitting help is needed.
The book explores the contradictions involved in these negotiations and how it is not always easy even for someone as fearless as Amanda Palmer.
Anthony, Amanda’s closest friend and mentor who sadly passed away a few years ago, had a story which he would tell Amanda whenever she began complaining about things she could change:
A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out.
A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house.
“What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend.
“It’s my dog,” said the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.”
“Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend.
The farmer deliberates on this and replies:
“Doesn’t hurt enough yet.”
With a few throw cushions and a rug, sometimes pointy things can be downright quite comfortable.