The American Spinster Review of Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking.
I should confess, I have been a devoted fan of Amanda Palmer for years. Since 2004 when I first heard of the bizarre and yet inexplicably familiar sound of her band The Dresden Dolls, I’ve been in love. Fan-love, that is, not creepy-stalker-fan-love. Just unadulterated adoration of an artist and her art.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the line between safe fan-love and creepy-stalker-fan-love when looking at The Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer fan base. From the outside, it’s all pretty unusual. Palmer couchsurfs and hitchhikes with her fans via Twitter, encourages them to ask her personal questions, and even allows them to draw with Sharpies on her naked body. This has led to a bond between artist and fans that outside observers often have a hard time understanding.
Fans who followed her long battle with her record label know how she tried to explain her brand of ‘marketing’ to them, and how the label just didn’t understand (actually connecting with fans on a personal level? Madness! This cannot lead to record sales). Palmer has been raked across the coals of social opinion for daring to have a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, and even occasionally criticized for marrying celebrity author Neil Gaiman. Yet her 2013 TED Talk was so popular, it lead to a book deal.
In The Art Of Asking, Palmer demonstrates that asking for things isn’t the same as begging, and receiving isn’t the same as scamming. She explains that trust and asking are intimately, inseparably connected. Asking makes you vulnerable. You just have to trust.
Why is this of spinsterly interest? Because tied up with album costs and fan interaction is the issue of independence. Palmer talks about her marriage to Gaiman (whose proposals she refused for years before finally accepting), the public perception of it, and about the difficulty that she, Queen of Asking, had in asking her husband for help.
The book is intensely personal and open, much like Palmer’s direct interaction with her fans. It can be an emotionally challenging read at times (and this coming from someone who followed her intimate, emotion-laden blog for years). But when I turned the last page, I found it well worth the personal investment.
Many proudly independent women will be able to relate to Palmer’s journey and growth. In fact, many people in general will be able to relate. That’s because it’s fundamentally a book examining the trust and intimate exchanges involved in the often difficult task of Asking. If nothing else, it’s a rarely seen view on the matter, and worth a read for anyone.