Review: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an Australian science fiction writer who lives Sydney. He has a keen interest in the cyberpunk genre and Japan.

palmer-theartofasking_imageAsking for help: it’s one of the most difficult and gut-wrenching things that a creative person can do. But in a world where the art becomes more and more difficult to separate from the commercial process, not asking can be what prevents the artist from reaching a wider audience or creating even greater works.

The Art of Asking is an autobiography by Amanda Palmer and follows a career that began with acting as a living statue, to her becoming one of the most influential artists of a generation. As you might expect from Palmer, this book is an eclectic collection of humorous and heart wrenching personal anecdotes; stories from the music and art communities around the world, private moments between Amanda and her best friend/mentor and her husband, Neil Gaiman, and lyrics from some of her most significant songs.

The Art of Asking is written in semi-erratic blog format–appropriate for an artist who has held strong connection with her online fan base for well over a decade–often bouncing between recounts of performances, to intimate moments with someone close, and to tear-jerking tales of self-discovery or endurance. Considered individually, each anecdote illustrates a small but possibly insignificant moment of a person’s life. But together they make up a patchwork kimono of many stories within a grand narrative.

The author’s voice throughout is clear and open. Amanda hides nothing as she recounts thoughts that are usually hidden, stoushes with her own personal “Fraud Police”, and personal traumas that have only been resolved with the help of those around her.

This book is an important read for any artist. Or anybody really. It deals with the difficulties of bringing yourself to ask for help–how far you can go on trust alone, dealing with hate and fear and relationships; and more than anything, it teaches that the art of asking is one of the most important skills we can develop. But it takes time and effort.

If you are or have ever been a fan of Amanda Palmer, The Dresden Dolls, The Grand Theft Orchestra, or any number of Amanda’s side projects, this book is even more powerful once you go back to those earlier projects with an understanding of what inspired them.

Even if Amanda Palmer’s music isn’t to your taste; even if you don’t agree with her stance on life, music, commercialism, relationships, or feminism; even if you aren’t an artist or someone who usually reads biographies, you should read The Art of Asking. Then you will understand what it’s like to reach out with both hands and ask someone Will you help me?

  • …and you get to learn a lot about Neil Gaiman as well :)

  • Hahah. Is that explicit or implicit?

  • Felicity Banks

    I was sad to see on twitter a month or two ago that Neil Gaiman and Palmer had broken up. I just checked Wikipedia and it doesn’t mention anything, so I’ll trust Wikipedia on this one and be happy.

  • Jamie Marriage

    @John James I got to hear Neil read aloud the parts about him. It was surreal and amazing.

  • Hi Felicity, is that so? I hadn’t seen it. I hope it’s all ok.


davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 





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