The Art of Asking

I have a bone to pick with Amanda Palmer

I shouldn’t start that way. Her book is awesome. By the way, you should go buy it. You can do so through one of the indie bookstores she mentions here. You can also buy it through a multitude of other places if that doesn’t suit you. I’d give you my copy, but I’ve already promised it to a friend. If you can’t buy it, get it from your library. If your library doesn’t have it demand that they do so.

The Art of Asking is about many things. Autobiographical in nature, but it aspires to be so much more than that. Each story she shares is a humble vision of what she practices as a way of life. That is, learning to ask. And the whole point of asking is not to get things, although sometimes that is useful, it’s about connecting with people. It’s about connecting with all people and seeing the humanity in them. Because at the end of the day that’s what makes everything, anything, worth something.

Yes we would all love to make buckets of money doing that stuff we love. Be it writing, art, music, etc. But what we want even more than money, as Amanda so adeptly shows, is connection and for people to understand us. Learning to ask, and asking the right way, is what helps us make those connections.

She shares many stories in her book and each one of them is about making a connection. Making those connections is what she directly attributes her success to. And she’s right. Some people look at her Kickstarter and wonder how she became an “over night success”. The truth is she wasn’t. She spent over a decade of learning to ask people. She made the connections with each and every one of her fans, or as many as she could. She is only human after all. Her book makes that all too clear. But that doesn’t stop her from trying.

Even reading her book is a way of connecting with her. You learn about her best friend, Anthony, who becomes a recurring theme in the book. He’s her friend, her mentor, and so much more. As she grows through the book the details of how much he means to her also grows. I don’t even know the man and I cried for him at the end of the story. That’s how real it gets in her book. There are bits of humor to carry you along as you’re reading her story, but it’s the downright brutal details of her life that suck you in and refuse to let you go. It all makes you connect with her. It all makes you want to ask for more.

She’s honest about everything. She’s refreshingly and openly honest. It’s not as if her life is without controversy, and yet somehow, when you get to those sections of the book, she becomes even more honest. She doesn’t shy away from any part of her life. Including her husband’s. Yeah that guy, Neil Gaiman. Unapologetically she lets out all the details one can muster about such relationships, and if you didn’t love him already (because let’s face it, he’s one cool dude) you love him even more because you now have a bit more insight to his darker bits, and hers by definition.

So with all this great stuff about her and her book why would I have a bone to pick with her. Because let’s face it, she is a musician, artist, speaker (some might say motivational), and now a writer. There is a lot to love about her. And I can’t stay mad at her. Really I can’t, because she is awesome in every sense of the word.  However, page 36: She starts talking about the experiment that Joshua Bell performed. You can go read about it here. In short a very famous violinist plays beautiful music on a very expensive violin to see how many people would stop and listen and/or give him money. He made $32.17 after 43 minutes of playing and over 1,000 people just walked by without acknowledgement. Normally tickets to his show can be $150 a piece. She asks how this could be.

She notes “If you watch the hidden camera footage of the stunt, and note the time of day (morning rush hour) and the demographics (busy government employees on their way to work), it starts to make more sense. Those mindless barbarians who had no idea what they were witnessing were commuters on their way to work who couldn’t afford to stop at that exact moment to appreciate art.” Ahhh the sting cometh slowly. When I read this I wanted to scream, I AM ONE OF THOSE “MINDLESS BARBARIANS”. Thank you very much. I’ll admit, in 2007, when this experiment took place, I was not a government employee. But I am now. But by no means am I a mindless barbarian. I love art and I make sure that I stop and give to those producing their art, even when I’m busy and on my way to work. If I have money in my pocket I give some to those busking. If I don’t have money, I at least give them a moment of appreciation as I watch or listen to their work. Because I know that all they are asking for is a connection, just like Amanda does all throughout her book and her life. Everybody deserves a connection, they just have to learn to ask for it.


Yes I got the signed copy. Thank you for writing this book Amanda Palmer. It is an inspiration.


  1. Helena Hann-Basquiat · · Reply

    I got the signed copy… from Amanda’s hands. Got to meet her in Toronto – what an experience. She gave some readings, sang some songs, and talked a lot. Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She is headed to the DC are in April, with Neil Gaiman, but I won’t be able to go unfortunately. I’m quite sad about it. I’m going to have to find a time to catch her though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I followed a thread from BookVibe to read your review – I was tempted by your headline, “I have a bone to pick…-” Only to land here and find that headline struck out. Oh, great! Now everyone knows how easy I am.

    Still, your review convinced me to keep an open mind and crack these covers. No mean feat, because I am generally allergic to heartwarming books about the authentic way to live my life. I’m afraid I don’t do “heartwarming” very well, and lord knows I’ve tried. And I’m Canadian, which doesn’t help.

    However, even though I haven’t read the book yet, don’t think that will stop me having an opinion. It’s the Internet, right? And I think there’s a misunderstanding about the author’s intent with “mindless barbarians”. I’m sure she meant this ironically; that she is saying: “these people you JUDGED to be mindless barbarians are simply people on their way to work, trying to be responsible.” Maybe they long to hear the music – but they can’t. She is pointing out our tendency to make snap judgments without knowing the full story. Yes? No?

    Thank you for your thoughtful review.


    1. I’m glad to hear you liked my review. I’m curious to know more about BookVibe and how a thread from there led you here. I’m glad it did. Admittedly the headline was meant to drag folks in. 🙂

      I’m not sure I would call this book heartwarming but it is sincere and authentic. And that goes a long way for me. I think you might enjoy it, truly.

      I think you’re probably right about her intent with the barbarian section. After I reread that section and many others, I can see how she really just wants us all to slow down and connect if we can, at least try to. Thank you for reading and leaving such an awesome comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t actually used Bookvibe a lot until now, but … it’s truly fun and useful. It mines your Twitter feed and suggests books that align with your interests and your community there. Checking today, every recommendation provided is actually something I’d read. I think you might enjoy it.

        So Margaret Atwood suggested Amanda Palmer’s book to me…

        Now, for a Canadian, getting a reco from Margaret Atwood is kind of like… having President Obama ask you out for a casual game of golf, followed by a small private reception with Michelle, the girls, and maybe the Pope and George Clooney. Barbra Streisand sings a few songs. You get the idea. It’s a big deal. So of course, I followed Her (always capitalized) advice. And that’s how I ended up on THDL.

        I look forward to reading The Art of Asking – and exploring your site.

        Best regards

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of us mindless barbarians like good art, music, etc. All though I don’t work for the government. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So we’re not totally mindless, right?

      Thanks for stopping by friend.


      1. Much to some people’s perceptions, no we are not totally mindless.

        Liked by 1 person

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