Amanda Palmer: “The Art of Asking” (Book Review)

Part memoir, part love story and all funny and inspiring. Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking, is like a long letter from a dear old friend.

The Dresden Dolls, The Brigade, The Rebellyon, Kickstarter…it’s quite a trip down memory lane for those of us who’ve been enamoured with Amanda’s music since the “A is for Accident” demo songs first popped up online.

The book is about much more than the music, however, as the ever open-book Amanda shares details about her background, her art, her beloved friend Anthony and her romance with author Neil Gaiman.

Amanda’s candid, “take the donut” to be a Living Statue mantra in The Art of Asking gave me courage to turn my for RAINN benefit album dream into a reality and reminded me of why The Dresden Dolls are my all-time favorite band. There’s never been anyone like Amanda Palmer and I doubt there ever will be.

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Amanda Palmer on for RAINN Benefit Album

Amanda Palmer Official Site

Current Read: Florence Gordon by Brian Morton

By the author of the brilliant Starting Out in the Evening, the protagonist of Brian Morton’s new novel, Florence Gordon, is an aging writer struggling to write her memoir amidst the dysfunction and chaos of family.

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Katie Ford: Blood Lyrics (Poetry)

Katie Ford’s upcoming poetry collection, Blood Lyrics, possesses an authentic fierceness of emotion coupled with a literary eloquence that is all too rare in modern poetry. Blood Lyrics will be released by Gray Wolf Press on October 21st.

[ O where has our meadow gone?
that which swept us here?
the orange cosmos and aster?
the hollycock and pollen-fire?
So I sing of hell
and the brutal body. ]

As the gut-wrenching final line of her opening poem “Spell” testifies, these poems were born along with Ford’s fragile premature baby daughter. It is that intense mix of maternal love and fear of loss that drives these poetic words.

I’m incapable of writing an unbiased review since the subject of Ford’s writing hits close to home with my family, but I think the emotional power and sheer beauty of her phrasing would be just as impressive without a kindred experience.

To Read of Slaughter,” for example, adroitly describes in succinct perfection the eerie, telling force of “silence” as representative of an absence — the sober realization of having been left behind in the wake of another’s leavetaking.

Ford expertly examines the “Trivial” aspects of daily life in the shadow, or “horror show,” of a loved one’s suffering and potential death. She also expresses the cruelty of dread at a time when “there should have been delight, delight and windchimes, delight.”

Less compelling to me were the more universal themes presented in the book’s second section, “The Long War.” Ford remains adept at her craft, but I personally feel those middle poems lack the punch of sincerity felt in the first section, “Bloodline.”

Thankfully, the final poem, “From the Nursery,” gracefully ties the two seemingly contradictory threads of motherhood and war together. Blood Lyrics is a magnificent book, inside and out.

“Don’t say it’s the beautiful I praise. I praise the human, gutted and rising.”

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Buy @ Gray Wolf Press

Rainbow Rowell: Landline

Rainbow Rowell has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I enjoyed Rowell’s first two novels so much that, upon finishing Fangirl, I immediately dove headfirst into her spectacular third book, Landline.

Star-crossed lovers, love triangles, long distance phone calls, quirky time travel, marital problems, crazy relatives, happy endings, second chances and a plethora of pop culture references….Landline is a love story of Nora Ephron proportions.

Granted, this story of an old yellow rotary phone that literally connects a woman to her past is speckled with plotholes.

Nonetheless, it culls the best elements from classic romantic comedies like Sleepless in Seattle and time travel rom-coms like The Family Man, Big and 13 Going on 30. And it’s all wrapped up in Rowell’s distinctively endearing voice.

If ever a book needed to be made into a movie, it’s Landline.

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Rainbow Rowell: Fangirl

I just finished reading Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a work of contemporary fiction so much.

Much like Rowell’s widely beloved previous novel, Eleanor & Park, Fangirl is an easy but well written and extraordinarily empathetic YA book. Fangirl tells a lighter story than the emotionally wrought Eleanor & Park, which made for a happier albeit less captivating read. But the strength of both books is their authentic, relatable characters.

Fangirl is a love letter to fanfiction writers, replete with excerpts from its own Harry Potter-inspired fic and frequent Twilight references. Yet more endearing are protagonist Cath’s geeky angst, her dysfunctional family (comprised of a rebellious twin sister, absent mother and bipolar father) and her Felicity-like freshman year of college.

I appreciate that Rowell’s heroines remain uncompromisingly independent despite their glaring insecurities and only fall for good guys who treat them with kindness and respect – a far cry from the unhealthy and often dangerous relationships portrayed in other popular YA series.

Rainbow Rowell’s novels expertly capture the awkwardness and blatantly emotional sincerity of teens in a heartfelt, deceptively simple way reminiscent of John Hughes movies. I hope Hollywood starts making movies based on her books, the world needs more of her kind of fiction.

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Rainbow Rowell Official Site