"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Some Late Night Thoughts on The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

It's 1am here and I just finished listening to Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking on audiobook. Amanda is a cult-y, free-spirited musician with painted on eyebrows who, I have to admit, I wrote off for a while because I thought I didn't like her music. I was wrong. I thought that I wouldn't really like her book, that it's subject matter, which as the title suggests, is about asking people (friends, family, audience members, fans, strangers) for help when you need it (in the form of money, places to stay, or just a hug), wouldn't be for me. I was wrong again.

The Art of Asking is a fantastic book. Listening to Amanda read it on audiobook was kind of like sitting down to a long conversation with a friend - those conversations where you share deepest fears, insecurities, and dreams, and the only thing that matters is that you are two people in a moment, connecting. According to Amanda asking for things and being willing to accept the answer, whatever it may be, is the basis for all human connection. If this book were a person, the idea that people have an innate ability to really, truly understand one another, even in seemingly contrived situations, would be coursing through its veins. Amanda writes about her time working as a living statue in a public square in Boston, her marriage to Neil Gaiman, her crazy, exuberant fan base and the shenanigans they get up to, and her best friend Anthony. Though the anecdotes seem disconnected, they somehow weave themselves into a network of interconnectedness, which is fitting because it's exactly how Amanda believes the world works. I was struck by her bravery and her trust in strangers, when so many of us are taught to fear even our next-door neighbors. I admired the way she wrote about friendship, because it's something I always struggle to put into words. The bond I have with my best friend feels like it has to be witnessed in person for you to really understand it, and yet as I read Amanda's account of her life-long friendship with Anthony I saw a lot of the same qualities in my own friendships.

I think The Art of Asking should be required reading for everyone. Especially artists, for whom asking support from their audience is doubly important. It's one of those books that will make you a better person, and teach you something about human nature that you might have thought was possible, but didn't believe yet. I recommend the audiobook, not only for Amanda's deep, soothing voice, but also because you get to listen to her songs every few chapters. I listened to the entire 11-hour audio book in the span of three days. But anyway, it's late. I'm glad this was my first read (listen?) of 2016. It was a good start.

If you want a taste, watch Amanda's TED talk, which was the inception for the book, and equally fantastic.

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