by Amanda Palmer
Read by the author
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Content: Amanda doesn’t check her language. There’s a ton of swearing, of all shades. And she’s pretty frank about pretty much everything. It’s in a couple of sections at the bookstore: self-help (which it really isn’t) and biography (where it fits a bit better).
When this book came in, the conversation with one of my bosses as I was shelving this went something like this:
Her: “I saw Amanda Palmer once. She was intense.”
Me: “I didn’t know who she was until she started dating Neil Gaiman.”
Her: “You know, she’s her own person.”
That last sentence really does sum up this book quite nicely: Amanda Palmer is, for better or worse, her own person. And she is not ashamed of any of it.
Nominally an expansion of her TED talk, it’s more a meandering look into what makes Amanda Palmer tick. On the surface, it’s not a book for everyone. Amanda is frank, which means that sometimes she (and her music) will rub you the wrong way. BUT, she is frank. Which means she’s honest, and that gives the book a refreshing clarity. She talks about a lot of things: her time as a street performer, her music, her relationship with Neil Gaiman, but at its heart, it comes down to one thing: she is interested in the connections between people and how we ask for things.
Because of who she is, this is framed in music terms: a musician asking her fans for support, help, love, money. But what she says — that there are ways to ask that isn’t begging, and that it’s the connections (what she calls the net) that makes asking possible — is applicable for just about everyone. It got me thinking about gifts and connections, and how we work at relationships, and about how I’m much too hesitant to ask for things. At one point, she says that asking without condition is a gift, because it allows the other person to give. That’s something that resonated with me.
I enjoyed the audio version of this quite a bit as well: while Amanda’s voice was sometimes difficult for me to hear (which is entirely my fault), I loved hearing snatches of her music (I prefer her later, ukulele songs to the Dresden Dolls stuff) and her Neil Gaiman voice (seriously: she had a slightly British affection when she had him talking. It was quite adorable). But, mostly, I felt like she was in the car with me, explaining her life view, and how, just maybe, it might make my life a little bit better.