Posts Tagged With: Amanda Palmer

Book Review: The Art of Asking

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I just finished The Art of Asking.  I don’t even know what to say about it, because it filled me up full of feelings both good and sad.  It felt like a story I was intimately familiar with, and yet something wholly new.  It left me with so many images from my own marriage, my own struggle toward legitimacy as a writer, and my own hang-ups about asking.   It has left me feeling confessional.

I joined the AFP fandom right about when she found out that Anthony had cancer and cancelled her tour.  I remember being worried for them.  I was jealous of all the house parties.  I’m a lurker, though.  I have never tweeted her, never tried to attend a show, never attempted to find Neil at a signing.  I made a highly-inappropriate-for-work playlist of her songs and played them in my lonely office in the basement of Chapman University.  I thought about buying tickets to the book tour in Los Angeles, but I didn’t.  I am an introverted, fuddy-duddy house maker. I will go one of these days, though.  I will.

Amanda and I are fundamentally different people, but so many of those life changing moments she writes about are moments I have had myself.  Like the tear-jerking relief of being told to keep going.

Oddly, it is Neil who gave me the first words of encouragement that weren’t from people who love me (and have to be complimentary).  I spent a year and a half researching a 45 page thesis on Deaf identity and film.  My advisor loved it and suggested we try and joint publish it.  He staked his PhD on me.  And then it was rejected in a mean, mean way.  I was told it was unscholarly and offensive.  I spent the night sobbing and reading Neil’s “Make Good Art” on the couch while Brian slept in the next room.  In a fit of despair, I decided that I would write Neil and thank him for Make Good Art, because at least I had a place to proceed from.  He wrote me back.  “Good luck! And keep going…” he said.  I would have kept going anyway.  But to be told I was legitimately allowed to? By a professional? A cool wave of gratitude washed over me and something in my heart released.  I wanted to cry again, this time from relief. It was a flood.

Perhaps this is why the book feels so familiar.  I have never been a statue on the streets of Boston.  I could never live at a place like the Cloud Club.  I would never shave my eyebrows and draw them artfully back on again.  Nor would I be comfortable on a stage even partially naked.  But there is so much love in this story, and the experience of needing, wanting, and being afraid of what people will say if you ask (or take) is universal.

My father was a great help to me in relationships.  Among many other things, he taught me that I could never be angry with someone for not providing me with something I haven’t asked for.  That is how I’ve lived my life.  It’s okay not to ask, but I have to assume that if I don’t ask I’m not getting it.  This is why it took me five years to see Garrison Keillor at the Hollywood Bowl (I told you I’m a fuddy-duddy).  It’s why I sometimes don’t feel like I’m getting enough attention from Brian (ask him to get off Facebook, or decline a night of Netflix? No).  It’s also why I had an amazing and awesome graduation party.  That one was important enough.  That one I told him I wanted.

I am slowly learning to ask; to hit myself over the head with my own “legit” wand as a writer.  The Art of Asking is a chronicle of Amanda’s journey toward the same and it is extraordinary.  It has exposed me to the wonderfulness of  a life I never would have led.  Although places, dates, and names are unique the inside struggle is something we all share.

I heartily, 100% recommend the book with all my heart.  I simultaneously want to loan it to everyone I’ve ever met (especially my artist friends) and can’t bear to part with my copy.

You should definitely go read it now.  I promise, you will walk away with something new and invaluable to think about.

Amazon Affiliate link here: The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

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Fall-ish Reading List 2014

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In the holiday shuffle, I missed posting my fall reading list.  So this one contains everything I’ve read up until January 1.  It’s shorter because I’ve been doing less reading of other people’s novels and more reading of my own.  Draft 6 is in full swing.

So, without further ado, here it is:

1.      A Wonderlandiful World, by Shannon Hale – Fun like the others, but I missed Apple and Raven.  Hale does some brilliant stuff that is Against the Rules and Shouldn’t Work with the character of the narrator. And yet it does, perfectly.

2.      Demons, and other magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge – She did not deliver on a (stupid) thing she’s been threatening for three books now, so that made me unhappy.  Otherwise it was what it should have been.  Nice epic finish that felt big enough.

3.      Manon Lescaut by Abbe Provost – I can’t say I liked it, although it got me thinking quite a bit.  It’s one of those novels where I disdain the characters and think they’re all idiots.  But it broadened my horizons.  So I’m not sorry I read it.

4.      The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern – If it was possible that anything could be funnier than the movie, this book is funnier than the movie.  The Florin jokes, abridgements, and history are the best thing ever, like I’m part of a massive inside joke.

5.      Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Man hired to read company e-mails secretly falls in love with girl who keeps violating the e-mail policy.  The two gals are beyond hilarious, the main character is such a great guy, and I love this book so much.

6.      The Lake by Analisa Grant – I just… 1st person present tense was difficult for me, and the story was cliché.  But it had profluence and an interesting main character.  I gave up 1/3 of the way through.  Maybe I’ll pick it up again, I don’t know.

7.      A Garden Folly by Candice Hern – The stupid sort of G rated Regency romance I love a lot.  Although it does make me uncomfortable when a girl says no and a guy doesn’t listen, no matter how much she’s really enjoying it.

8.      Paper Towns by John Green – Looking For Alaska was a better “finding someone” novel, and An Abundance of Katherines was a better “road trip” novel.  But it enjoyed it, and would have enjoyed it more had I not read the others first, I think.

9.      The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer – Now this is what I look for in a sappy regency romance.  Sophy is delightfully uncouth, quippy, and still the toast of the town.  It’s such a fun novel!  I’m pretty sure Heyer is my new obsession.

10.  The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer – A confusing start but ultimately fun.  Minus (miniscule) points because the siblings don’t have a great reason for masquerading.  Most of the novel had me in conniptions worried for Prue in White’s club.

11.  A Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – I feel  like I shouldn’t have liked this one because of the abduction but I did anyway.  I could have done without the swath at the end where silly brothers are silly.  Otherwise impeccable.

12.  The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – Considered her best by folks on Goodreads. It was cute, but I wasn’t super impressed.  The way she treats gender relationships sometimes bothers me, but not enough to hate the book.  It was a different time.

13.  More Than Somewhat by Damon Runyon – Why is he so wonderful?  I forgot how hilarious he makes the Broadway underworld of the 1930s and 40s.  I wish more of his stuff was available.

14.  The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – Oh CRAZY good, and perfect for the Halloween mood I was in.  Vampire novel meets quippy YA novel in the best way.  It was violent, but I found I could take it.  Seriously, this one is amazing.

15.  The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer – This one was sort of murder mystery-ish, although I knew who did it way too far in advance.  Once again, some unwanted advances are blamed on the flirtatious girl (sigh).  But I enjoyed it anyway.

16.  Dangerous by Shannon Hale – I love this novel, and the problems I saw in it the first time didn’t bother me at all the second time through.  The best part is still the funny names Maisy gives her false arm, and the bad puns.  They never get old.

17.  A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – You don’t often get nonfiction books that focus on the daily lives of women.  And women in the late 1700’s? Sold! It was a fascinating read and taught me A LOT about colonial domestic life. Love.

18.  The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – It’s weird.  This book feels utterly familiar and yet new at the same time.  I am in love with her, and this book is all the toppings on the sundae of how she’s changed my perspective and my life. So good.

19.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Beautifully written. It made me angsty and paranoid, though. The things she has to say about relationships are so heartbreakingly true that it feels like I could get there.  And the end?  No.  Just, no.  Ultimately did not like.

20.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I have never read any Dickens as an adult, and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I did when I was younger.  His character descriptions are delightful, and the story is so much more full.  Poor Pip and his fortune.

21.  Balls and Synthetic Cheese by Amethyst Hethcoat – A classmate of mine.  Such a weird and sometimes funny collection of short stories.  I had forgotten her penchant for unlikely metaphors and similes that make me grin. I was glad for the reminder.

22.  Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley – SO good, with that mundane quality in which nothing and everything happens which McKinley does so well. It’s a different book than Beauty, the ending far more satisfying.  Happily ever after is happy too.

23.  Landline by Rainbow Rowell – CRAZY good.  It made me think of Brian and the way things used to be 15 years ago when we were first dating.  It was sweet, and at this point I’m ready to read everything Rowell has ever written ever.

24.  Sunshine by Robin McKinley – It killed me that I didn’t have 12 hours to just sit down and read this thing all the way through.  Dirtier than most McKinely novels, but I didn’t mind.  This book makes vampire tropes look Hot (capital H).

25.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I love the way Rowell makes me think of my own college days.  It makes me want to love Brian in detail like that again.  Cath is so wonderful in such a messy way.  There isn’t anything I don’t love about this book.

26.  Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones – A re-read.  I forgot how terrible Gwendolyn is, and how funny Chrestomanci’s dressing gowns are.  And Millie! And the adorable but bitey dragon! Some of the best of Diana Wynne Jones.

27.  The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones – A re-read.  Because after Cat, you HAVE to have Christopher and his Almost Anywheres.  I might love this book more than the first one, although I nearly always read them in this order.

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Ukulele Banish Evil

The yen for a uke started with Amanda F. Palmer. I watched a video of her ukulele anthem and fell in love with it. She was standing in a color blocked leather coat in a wintry square, singing and strumming to a crowd on a background of black steel and windows. They cheered, laughed, clapped in all the right places. “Stop pretending art is hard,” she sang, confident and beautiful, and the words hit my heart. Because art isn’t really all that hard when you think about it, it’s silencing the voices in your head that tell you your art is no good and you really shouldn’t bother that is difficult. I want to be able to sing that anthem and feel free.

In high school, there was a girl in the theater department who had a ukulele. She and I were good acquaintances – not friends exactly, but in that awkward place where you hang out in the same social groups but never quite make a connection. She would sit in the green room of the theater and play us a song she wrote entitled “I Want to Be a Bad Gangster.” With the bright ukulele for accompaniment, she would toss her blonde hair and declare her love of things like tricked out station wagons that jump up and down. We couldn’t get enough. I wish I remembered her name.

A ukulele can be packed into just about anywhere. It is not a tragedy if a twenty dollar uke gets dirty, or left behind, or accidentally damaged. I could decorate it with stickers and words like “stop pretending art is hard.” We could fall in love, my ukulele and me, and we could make music together everywhere.

That is my real vision: Brian and I clustered around the campfire at night, our gray dome tent pitched in the background, green plastic tablecloth on the decrepit picnic bench. A bag of marshmallows is open at my feet, and I have achieved the perfect marshmallow sugar coma. My heart is racing and I feel content. The orange light of the fire glistens off the face of my ukulele as I strum the strings with my sticky fingers. I sing something bright and funny, and then I sing a love song. The stars shine above us through the branches of the trees, and we are happy.

The Folk Music Store has a light blue one with a dolphin shaped bridge. I think I’ll bring it home this weekend.

If you’re interested, AFP’s Uke video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CBDqQ3UxmM

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