NEW YORK PRESS

 

Return to Amanda Palmer

 

Die, Die My Darling
Inside the bloody, lusty world of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer
By Linnea Covington

Neil Gaiman is in his underwear. I’ve been in his hotel room, the penthouse suite at the Maritime Hotel, for 15 minutes and Gaiman has stripped down, save for a button-up shirt and jacket bought off a homeless guy for $40, to follow his paramour Amanda Palmer (former Dresden Doll, current singer, author and all-around goth-girl heartthrob) into a bubble bath.

As Gaiman strategically places suds around Palmer’s eye-popping nipples, I perch on the sink to watch them conduct an in-tub interview for a website.While they talk, I thumb through a copy of Who Killed Amanda Palmer, the duo’s book of photography, song lyrics and stories (released July 7). True to the title, the entire coffee table collection is filled with stories about how Palmer (hypothetically) died, who killed her and why.

After a quick shower to rinse off the soap, the couple, now dressed in street clothes, exits the bathroom and sits down with me.

“I loved the idea that somebody had been taking photos of herself dead in different places for 14 years.There was a sort of madness and dedication,” says Gaiman in a soft British accent. “When she told me about the idea to do a book, it had that wonderful, barking mad, attractive quality of ‘I have never done anything like that, that would be fun.’”

The name of the book (also shared by an album and video series) makes a direct reference to Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s cult series that had everyone wondering who killed Laura Palmer. But while the title, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, acts as a tribute to Lynch, one of Palmer’s heroes, it only translates in the book’s name and overall macabre settings. Otherwise, there is nothing Twin Peaks about it.The whole of the book centers on Palmer’s gruesome hobby, which she started in her early twenties.


“I found that when I was in beautiful places I wanted to take photos and put myself in them, but it seemed wrong to be alive,” says Palmer. “It just seemed uninteresting—such was my eternal logic at 22.”

And it seems to still make sense. Who Killed Amanda Palmer is rich with both disturbing images, like Palmer folded up in a shopping cart, to more wholesome dead shots, like a foot protruding in front of church. Palmer poses naked, clothed, cloaked in a shower curtain, hidden in trash and abandoned on stairs; each photo goes with either lyrics from her album or with a short story by Gaiman.


“It felt like I figured out a new vocabulary to telling stories,” says Gaiman about the process. “The idea was that it wouldn’t only be a book of photographs, but a book of weird experiences.
I sometimes wrote stories that commented on the photographs, and there are some stories in there where you really don’t need to see the photograph to get the story.”

One such photo—the first one Palmer took of herself dead and Gaiman’s personal favorite—is a blackand-white image that shows a close-up of a dead Palmer vomiting jewelry.The story Gaiman wrote to go with it proved as dark as the image. He adapted the classic French fairy tale “Diamonds and Toads” and made it his own, sans the happy ending. The image of the dead girl represents a good, kind sister who helped the poor and in turn, was “gifted” with jewelry flowing from her mouth each time she spoke. Locked in a room by her angry mother, when tragedy strikes on the other side of the door, the girl cries out until the gems choke her.

“What I really like about the book is that it’s spinning off more art,” says Kyle Cassidy, one of the photographers featured in the book. “The idea that the three of us, who do such different things, could get together and make something, gives me hope it will change someone’s life.”

While Palmer does many things, from music to performance art, up until now Gaiman’s sole trade has been writing. His dark and brooding character Dream in the Sandman series has fueled tween (and some adult) fantasies for years. But, by collaborating with Palmer, both artists have created a new niche for themselves and opened doors to other art forms. The best example might be the recently released Internet torch song, written by Gaiman and performed by Palmer, called “I Google You.”

Beyond the song, the couple’s Internet relationship to the public has proven unique. Both artists use Twitter religiously and Palmer’s MySpace page brims with news and blog posts. Gaiman is also an avid blogger, and the two constantly link to each other and converse on their social networking sites as they comment about life, art and animals.

“I like that you are stepping in and out of the stream of things,” says Gaiman, about his Twitter habit. Palmer chimed in, “There is the wonderful thing of allowable randomness.”

The way they feel about Twitter works as a metaphor for how they are able to coexist.The pair started working together because their friend Jason Webley suggested Palmer email Gaiman, though she had no idea who he was.They hit it off and he mailed her off a care package of his repertoire; she sent him the album Who Killed Amanda Palmer.

“I really liked the album,” he says, looking at Palmer. “I am pretty sure I said yes before you sent me the photos.

“The whole point of Who Killed Amanda Palmer, the book, was that it was an idea that she really liked. I got involved because it was an idea I liked, and we made this book that is wonderful and goofy and strange and very, very beautiful,” Gaiman says. “It’s the ultimate coffee table book for people who don’t have coffee table books. Or coffee tables.”

Who Killed Amanda Palmer is available at www.whokilledamandapalmer.com.