Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Collaboration Review: Who Killed Amanda Palmer (With Stories by Neil Gaimen)

Title: Who Killed Amanda Palmer

Plotline: A Collection of Photgraphic Evidence

Author (s): Neil Gaimen (short stories)

Photography: Kyle Cassidy, Beth Hommel and many more.

Lyrics: Amanda Palmer (of the Dresdon Dolls)

Summary: Since I'm at a loss for words as to how to describe this book, I'll leave it to Neil Gaimen (also about how he became involved:

She had sent me her then-forthcoming CD WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER, which I'd loved, and I'd agreed to write the back cover "liner notes". And then Amanda sent me an email telling me that she had been taking photographs of herself dead for about 14 years, that the original idea had been to use some of those photos for the CD sleeve, but that would not happen, and she was making it into a book, and asking if I'd be interested in writing some words to go along with them.

She sent me many of the photos. I was intrigued. Nobody had ever asked me to do anything like that before, and the photos were small frozen stories, so I said yes. I went out to Boston in August and spent a few long-but-good days with Amanda and with photographer Kyle Cassidy, who is astonishing, with Amanda's then-boyfriend Michael and with Beth Hommel, her assistant. It was like a combination of mad improv theatre and instant film-making as we created scenarios and Kyle shot them. Mostly I was somewhere off to the side, scribbling in a notebook while everything happened around me, but occasionally I was dragooned into helping, or even being part of a shot. (There was one night where I staggered back and forth down an alley at 2.00am, with a dead Amanda over my shoulder, while nearby my friend Kira made imaginary cell-phone calls, and I waited for a squad car to pull up and find out what was going on. No squad cars turned up. People in Boston are very blase about dead people in alleys. The photo made it into the book, I think.)

I loved trying to turn the photos into stories. Some big stories, some very small stories, even a new-old fairy tale, each story odd, each story fun to write, and each story, invariably, fatal.

The most fun I think were the ones where the photo created more questions than it answered (a dead woman on some waste ground, her head crushed by a manual typewriter, apparently dropped from a very high place just left me going WHY? and produced one of my favourite stories as I got to explain...)

I've said it before on this blog: Writing is (like death) a lonely business, and it was enormously fun for me writing surrounded by creative people busy creating. I wrote several of the stories sitting in a corner of a room while Amanda practiced for her upcoming tour, tuning in and out of reality while songs were being played. It was fun.

There are about a dozen stories altogether, and a few shorter things by me in there. And there are lyrics by Amanda. And photographs. So many photographs.

Who Killed Amanda Palmer is, at first glance, a book of photographs. A companion to the epinonimous Amanda Palmer's forthcoming album of the same name, consisting of photographs of Amanda dead, maimed, or killed in variously odd ways. These pictures are accomponied by small tidbits of stories by Neil Gaimen, which is what sold me in the first place (seeing as I'm a hopeless heap of Gaimen Fangirl) as well as lyrics from songs in the album, "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" by...erm...Amanda Palmer.


I think the part that will draw readers in is the strange, unique ways Amanda Palmer is "killed" and the ways Neil Gaimen executes each explanation. The range from surreal tidbits that let the photo elaborate for them, such as "The Two of Them" to simple phone conversations that can be taken into whatever context the reader sees fit, such as "The Boys Room". There is no doubt that "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" is an art piece, meant for those who are fans of Amanda Palmer's music, or just the strange and morbid in general. There is some very tasteful nudity (not like Playboy tasteful--just plain tasteful). The photos themselves are very, very odd, ranging from limbs flying though the air, to simple bodies floating down a murky river. The pictures, lyrics, and stories all weave together so perfectly it's hard to imagine any of them without the other.

Neil Gaimen, once again, proves that he is a master of stories, creating an entire scenerio with just a few shrot sentences. Amanda Palmer's lyrics are fantastic (though this could just be because I'm a HUGE fan of her and the Dresdon Dolls), as is the photography (I'm sounding like a broken record, aren't I?). Again, it's difficult to explain this book without actually holding it up for you to see. There is a short introduction of shorts in the front, accompanied by the cover photo of the CD of which this book is based:

...explaining the reason multiple 'Amanda Palmers' have been turning up dead all over the world. Here's the last paragraph:

(...) If you see Amanda Palmer on the street, kill her, said the graffiti under the bridge in Boston. And beneath that somebody else wrote, That way she'll live forever.

I'm not entirely sure how to explain this, because it's such a visual thing...I can't do it justice by writing a review for it. There is simply nothing I can say that can capture the bizzare genius of Who Killed Amanda Plamer. All I can suggest is to go and get it.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Also: Here are some lyrics written by Palmer for one of the photgraphs called "Astronaut"

Is it enough to have some love
small enough to slip inside a book
small enough to cover with your hand
because everyone around you wants to look

it is enough to have some love
small enough to slip inside the cracks
the pieces don’t fit together so good
with all the breaking and all the gluing back

and i am still not getting what i want
i want to touch the back of your right arm
i wish you could remind me who i was
because every day I’m a little further off

but you are, my love, the astronaut
flying in the face of science
i will gladly stay an afterthought
just bring back some nice reminders

and is it getting harder to pretend
that life goes on without you in the wake
and can you see the means without the end
in the random frantic action that we take

and is it getting easy not to care
despite the many rings around your name
it isn’t funny and it isn’t fair
you’ve traveled all this way and it’s the same

but you are, my love, the astronaut
flying in the face of science
i will gladly stay an afterthought
just bring back some nice reminders
and i would tell them anything to see you split the evening
but as you see i do not have an awful lot to tell
everybody’s sick for something that they can find fascinating
everyone but you and even you aren’t feeling well

but you are, my love, the astronaut
flying in the face of science
i will gladly stay an afterthought
just bring back some nice reminders

yes you are, my love, the astronaut
crashing in the name of science
just my luck they sent your upper half
it’s a very nice reminder
it’s a very nice reminder

and you may be acquainted with the night
but I have seen the darkness in the day
and you must know it is a terrifying sight
because you and i are living the same way


Padfoot and Prongs - Good Books Inc. said...

This is pretty intriguing to me. I got a rough start with Neil Gaiman and have been pretty turned off to all of his work ever since. I do however really like this concept and esp. the lyrics by Amanda. I might just have to check this out after your post!

runningforfiction said...

Amanda Palmer is my favorite person in the whole entire world. I've met her so many times, I'll admit i'm a little (or a lot) obesessed. I love this book. I'm SO happy you did too.

Lisa said...

This is very cool.. I am extremely intrigued!! GREAT review, as usual!!!

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