Friday, November 7, 2014

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Main character:  Amanda Palmer, musician and performance artist
Location: around the world, though mostly the Boston area
Time period: Contemporary
Genre:  Nonfiction, Memoir, Sociology

Dear Amanda,

You wrote such a personal book that I feel the need to be personal as well.  You have built a devoted following by being so open and generous and trusting--and maybe naive--that your fans respond in kind.  You have suffered a few betrayals, but that has not diminished your trust.  I have a feeling that you are the kind of person that considers everyone who spend some time with your friend.

I was fascinated when you talked about being the Eight-Foot Bride.  (You didn't have to get permission to be a living statue?  Really?  Who knew!)  I like the thought of setting up the limitations for yourself, and then trying to make a connection with individuals within those limitations.  (And my bone and joints ache in sympathy for standing still for such long periods of time..)  It made me think of when I go to a farmer's market or an arts and crafts fair--the stall holder who strikes up a conversation and talks to me--about their product, the weather, my t-shirt, anything--is the one I will buy from, even if it's something I did not intend to buy.  Yes, making a connection makes someone want to return that connection.

If there are degrees of fandom, I would have to say that I am a casual fan of yours.  I have not been to any of your concerts and I'm not familiar with much of your past work, but I enjoy your music videos.  The Bed Song is heartbreaking, and there are segments of Want It Back that I find absolutely terrifying.  But I follow you on tumblr and facebook, and will sometimes click through to read your blog.  When you started referring to certain incidents in your book that I was already familiar with, I started trying to remember when and how I first became aware of you.  I think it was on a Doctor Who special where you were one of several "celebrity Whovians" and I wasn't sure what to make of this person in a lovely white gown, very blue eyeshadow, and high penciled Joan Fontaine/Bette Davis eyebrows.  (I was a little obsessed with your eyebrows for a while--I'm glad you explained them in a footnote.)  I heard about your Kickstarter campaign, but since I wasn't yet familiar with your music I didn't contribute anything.  Sorry.  (However, since I missed out on that, I have contributed to Jason Webley's "Margaret" purely on your recommendation.  Pay it forward.)  Then Neil Gaiman posted a link to the video for Want It Back on his blog, and I was just blown away.  Later I saw a link to The Killing Type.  After that I started seeking out your videos.  Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn is astonishingly creative.  I am amazed at the work it takes to plan and execute something like that. When I listen to The Killing Type and Gaga, Palmer, Madonna: A Polemic, I am reminded of Tom Lehrer ["and it don't matter if you put a couple of extra syllables into a line."]  This doesn't really relate to anything in your the book, but I wanted to say it.

I was glad to read more fully about your relationship with Anthony--hearing about what he has meant to you for so much of your life made your facebook postings about his health make a little more sense to me.

I am delighted by the thought of you and Neil Gaiman as a couple and am grateful that you shared as much as you did--even though many things were deeply personal and not really any of my business.  I was worried about you two because you spend so much time apart touring and working, but it sounds like you have crafted a friendship/marriage/relationship strong enough and understanding enough to withstand the separations.  For all that your books reads like it just spilled out in a stream of consciousness, the way you crafted the story of the tomato, schedule and banana was lovely.  When you had those items taken to Neil during his signing when he learned his father had died just brought tears to my eyes.

I am so glad that you included the conversation that you had with your mother about her computer programming--that story works on so many levels.  Who among us hasn't as a teenager thoughtlessly flung something hurtful at our mothers?

Obviously this book is a very personal book--for you the author, but also for the reader.  As I read it, it was easy to imagine us sitting in a living room drinking wine and sharing stories about our lives and our beliefs.  Nearly every anecdote resonated with me--not because I shared the same experience but because an experience I had somehow related to it.  If you're ever in my town, I would be honored to lend you a spare bedroom.

Thank you, Amanda.

I read this book as an e-ARC from NetGalley.

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