You Talkin' To Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama

Sam Leith

You Talkin' To Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama

Rhetoric is what gives words power. It's nothing to be afraid of. It isn't the exclusive preserve of politicians: it's everywhere, from your argument with the insurance company to your plea to the waitress for a table near the window. It convicts criminals (and then frees them on appeal). It causes governments to rise and fall, best men to be shunned by brides, and people to march with steady purpose towards machine guns. In this book, Sam Leith examines how people have taught, practised and thought about rhetoric from its Attic origins to its twenty-first century apotheosis. Along the way, he tells the stories of its heroes and villains, from Cicero and Erasmus, to Hitler, Obama — and Gyles Brandreth. 3.8 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
You Talkin' To Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Language & Linguistics
Format Hardback
Pages 304
RRP £14.99
Date of Publication October 2011
ISBN 978-1846683152
Publisher Profile
 

Rhetoric is what gives words power. It's nothing to be afraid of. It isn't the exclusive preserve of politicians: it's everywhere, from your argument with the insurance company to your plea to the waitress for a table near the window. It convicts criminals (and then frees them on appeal). It causes governments to rise and fall, best men to be shunned by brides, and people to march with steady purpose towards machine guns. In this book, Sam Leith examines how people have taught, practised and thought about rhetoric from its Attic origins to its twenty-first century apotheosis. Along the way, he tells the stories of its heroes and villains, from Cicero and Erasmus, to Hitler, Obama — and Gyles Brandreth.

THE COINCIDENCE ENGINE by Sam Leith

Reviews

The Literary Review

Christopher Hart

Immensely entertaining … You Talkin’ To Me? is a sprightly, erudite and often very funny book about rhetoric, but it is also an exceptionally astute examination of how politics works. I relished every page of it.

01/11/2011

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The Spectator

John Preston

[An] elegant, concise and frequently very funny book … One of the reasons why the study of rhetoric has fallen out of fashion, Leith believes, is because it’s been stigmatised by its association with the classics. It’s also been shouldered aside by the likes of linguistics, psychology and literary criticism. Yet rhetoric, he insists — pleads even (big pathos, building to peroration) 'gathers in the folds of its robe everything that makes us human. To be fascinated by rhetoric is to be fascinated by people, and to understand rhetoric is in large part to understand your fellow man.' What’s more, effective rhetoric need not be fancy rhetoric.

19/11/2011

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The Evening Standard

Hermione Eyre

Leith should win some sort of medal for his sustained comparison between the original "Philippic" (Demosthenes's attempt to rouse Greece into action against Philip II of Macedon) and a modern day "argie-ment" (Simon Jenkins's artful op-ed piece recommending Britain concede the Falklands). You finish this book more than ready to rock a first in rhetoric.

13/10/2011

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The Guardian

Charlotte Higgins

Highly entertaining and erudite … Reading this book is the equivalent of lounging in a leather club armchair, wreathed in cigar smoke and a couple of whiskies down, alongside a companion who's being funny and clever about Homer and Hello! magazine by turns and who manages to stay a hair's breadth this side of being annoyingly flip.

15/10/2011

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The Scotsman

Stuart Kelly

[Leith] displays a formidable degree of intellectual chutzpah … I can’t think of many books which move with such grace between Jennifer Lopez and Margaret Thatcher, Demosthenes and the Gruffalo … Amid the fun, there is insight. Leith shows, for example, how Gordon Brown’s use of past tenses in the leadership debates compared with Cameron’s future tenses.

18/10/2011

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The Times

Iain Finlayson

Leith gives modern relevance to an ancient practice. Though he is rigorous in his analysis of rhetoric, he is no dull pedagogue ... Read this entertaining and instructive book and you will never again mistake an occultatio for an occupatio.

15/10/2011

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The Sunday Times

James McConnachie

This is an appealingly passionate book, but it shies away from depth. It focuses on political speechifying by Americans, for instance, at the expense of literary rhetoric … Ultimately, he leaves you wanting more. In a speech, this is just as it should be. In a book, however, it is a little unsatisfying.

16/10/2011

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The Independent

Peter Carty

... the section on Churchill is engrossing ... But Leith is disappointing on Hitler ... The result is an entertaining primer, yet it stands as a reminder that rhetoric is much too important for the common good. That's because of the fundamental disconnect of politics: rhetorical talent has no necessary connection to executive ability.

18/11/2011

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The Observer

Ian Birrell

… a breezy book that sprays around examples from history, politics and popular culture to outline the building blocks of public speech, flitting happily from Cicero to J-Lo, from Hitler to Homer Simpson. Perhaps a little too happily — the cast of characters flash by almost too frequently, while the mixture of colloquialism and the classics sometimes jars. Mark Antony and the Australian rock band AC/DC are not obvious bedfellows, for example. Despite this, when given time to breathe, Leith's often engaging examples lighten any sense of learning.

16/10/2011

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