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You Talkin' To Me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama

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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 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 highly entertaining (and persuasive) 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.


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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 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 highly entertaining (and persuasive) 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.

30 review for You Talkin' To Me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    The author begins with historical framework. Plato hated rhetoric; it paled compared to the pursuits of philosophy. It was for manipulating the masses, and, by the way, he hated democracy, too. He saw it as mob rule, as when it condemned his hero Socrates. The author paints a quick picture of direct democracy in which cases were tried before a crowd (of citizens, of course--landed male heads of household). Aristotle, on the other hand, saw in rhetoric the royal road to what made people tick. Tha The author begins with historical framework. Plato hated rhetoric; it paled compared to the pursuits of philosophy. It was for manipulating the masses, and, by the way, he hated democracy, too. He saw it as mob rule, as when it condemned his hero Socrates. The author paints a quick picture of direct democracy in which cases were tried before a crowd (of citizens, of course--landed male heads of household). Aristotle, on the other hand, saw in rhetoric the royal road to what made people tick. That fits in well with the cognitive psychology I've been reading; rhetoric says what works, while today's psychology says how. Rhetoric was an important area of learning in antiquity. It was reclaimed as a central topic of study in medieval times during the Scholastic period, 1100-1500, says Wikipedia. It remained central during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods. Thinkers in those eras were rediscovering the classics and refocusing from otherworldly concerns to this world. For that they needed technical skills such as rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. It doesn't so much exist any longer as an independent discipline, having been divvied up between various fields--politics, psychology, literature, homiletics.... Maybe that's why, at first, I could start reading one night without any recall of what I read the night before. (My husband and I read this book out loud at dinner, appropriately enough.) On the other hand, the author had a penchant for tossing around Greek phrases and suchlike, sometimes without ready definitions, which also impacted the memory. Getting into the meat of the issue, we have the five parts of rhetoric, from invention to delivery. Now, under "invention" are the three lines of argument: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. As you might guess Logos is the essence of argument, and is to sound logical but may not really be, and Pathos is the appeal to the emotions. Ethos, "the appeal from character," is the most interesting. Ethos--"who am I and what's my authority to speak." If the speaker comes across as alien when he's supposed to be one with his audience, he's had it. I think I can use the memory palace, an elaborate mental memo board (categorized under Memory, the fourth part of rhetoric) when I'm writing. Even though I have Word and Google, etc., in longish pieces I get confused over where I'm going. With a memory palace I could easily try out various alternatives regarding organization. And we've got the three branches of oratory. More terms, albeit not Greek. Deliberative, or legislative, oratory has the goal of encouraging or forestalling future events; includes sermons and opinion pieces of all kinds. Judicial, or forensic, oratory focuses on the past, seeking to establish "who done it" and decide on guilt or innocence. Epideictic oratory is the rhetoric of praise or blame, for instance, eulogy and wedding speeches, but also, I think, ad hominem stuff. It's not fully distinct from the other two branches. The organization and what topics go under what headings can seem arbitrary. The author's ethos was a little off. He's talking about what rhetoric has to offer but fluctuated between cynicism and commending it to the reader in flowery terms. Where does he really stand? His exemplary rhetoricians could be cynical, too. Hitler, of course; he said the crowd had no will of its own once he whipped them up; but even Aristotle, for whom rhetoric incorporated the understanding of human nature; he thought that, since people responded to rhetorical devices, they were "base." Likewise, Churchill, after a powerful speech, is supposed to have said, "That got the sods, didn't it?" At least today's cognitive scientists don't write that way. They seem matter-of-fact about human nature. (Clinicians? Well, that's another story.) He had a little decorum problem, decorum being the ability to fit one's presentation to the particular audience, as in, "Use the bait the fish likes, not the bait the speaker likes." For example, teasing his readers for not knowing a particularly esoteric acronym. And as I said just smacked a little bit of the bad boy, or wise-ass, approach, at times. Such as showing he could rhetorically put together anything that would sell. Not that I'm accusing him, but it just feels that way at times. He is British, so may not have read his American audience well enough. Of the rhetorician examples, Hitler, Churchill, and Lincoln were best. The Times of London called the Gettysburg Address ludicrous. The Chicago Times said Lincoln's utterances were "silly, flat, and dishwatery." The time and attention lavished on Obama's speeches was excessive. Written about him after his victorious first election, all the analysis doesn't play the same now, as his vaunted speaking ability has become tarnished in my ears by Republican slanders, plus the continuous context of government stalemate. In print as in speeches, Kairos--timing--is everything. I'm being critical, saying the author was hard to follow and was a little off his mark in several ways, but this book was a worthwhile read. We all hear complaints about the sheer amount of information one is exposed to today, and the "noise;" well, knowledge of rhetoric becomes a tool with which to help understand what we hear or read. Also, what I put into a book lifts my rating. I liked the way rhetoric fit in with what I'm learning in other areas. This book led me to think of a better example of rhetoric than the ones given, and that was Chapters 3 - 5 in Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance. That author seemed almost to have been a fly on the wall as citizenship for Jews became a bone of contention over which the liberalizing and conservative forces fought for two years, as the tide flowed first one way and then the other. There's a great example of rhetoric!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Aranda

    Mr. Leith makes rhetoric, basically the art of persuasion, practical and easy to understand for someone who didn’t give this topic that much thought. This book was not only the balance between discussion about rhetoric and mild humor, but the many examples referenced from film, literature, politics, history, and everyday life. The layout of the book begins with the basics and overview of argument and rhetoric, which helped me understand the academic definition of this topic. Then Mr. Leith launch Mr. Leith makes rhetoric, basically the art of persuasion, practical and easy to understand for someone who didn’t give this topic that much thought. This book was not only the balance between discussion about rhetoric and mild humor, but the many examples referenced from film, literature, politics, history, and everyday life. The layout of the book begins with the basics and overview of argument and rhetoric, which helped me understand the academic definition of this topic. Then Mr. Leith launches into specific devices or strategies and examples of rhetoric by giving scenarios and even “Champions of Rhetoric” to help the reader develop an understanding of how rhetoric has been used. The author references classic orators like Cicero, Plato and Aristotle, but takes many of the ideas about being persuasive and relates them for more modern orators like Martin Luther King Jr.. The diverse cast of examples used by the author is quite extensive, and there are examples from media, cartoons, advertisements, pop culture, film, editorials, etc.. Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama isn’t the first book on rhetoric I’ve read but it’s definitely one of the better ones. All the examples and Mr. Leith's writing style are what made this book so much more helpful to me. Would definitely recommend to those looking to understand rhetoric.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    This book was a little too advanced for me. I can get only so much from studying the great speakers that the author used as examples. I did appreciate his explanation of the historical development of rhetoric, however. The stories of Plato and Aristotle were particularly helpful.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kyo

    Interesting read, but I do think it's more appropriate as a book just to read when you like rhetoric, not necessarily as a study book (which it was for me).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Frantiska

    I doubt i would have picked this book up if it wasn't part of my syllabus, but i definitely enjoyed the new insight into rhetoric. However, it is more of an introduction to the basics of rhetoric and its tropes, rather than a guide on how to actually use rhetoric in practice. Although the humour got a little tedious near the end, Leith's tone and writing style was a refreshing change from the usual textbooks.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Suzi

    Quite a nice read, but I think I would have enjoyed it better if I didn't had to learn from it for uni (I do recommend it though). Xx

  7. 4 out of 5

    Franky

    I know it is often said that “actions speak louder than words” but words, you know, do also carry some weight as well, as evidenced in “Words Like Loaded Pistols.” What I really liked about this book was not only the balance between discussion about rhetoric and mild humor, but the many examples referenced from film, literature, politics, history, and everyday life. The author references classic orators like Cicero, Plato and Aristotle, but takes many of the ideas about being persuasive and rela I know it is often said that “actions speak louder than words” but words, you know, do also carry some weight as well, as evidenced in “Words Like Loaded Pistols.” What I really liked about this book was not only the balance between discussion about rhetoric and mild humor, but the many examples referenced from film, literature, politics, history, and everyday life. The author references classic orators like Cicero, Plato and Aristotle, but takes many of the ideas about being persuasive and relates them to the modern world. The diverse cast of examples used by the author is quite extensive, and there are examples from media, cartoons, advertisements, pop culture, film, editorials, etc. What Leith does is make rhetoric, basically the art of persuasion, practical and easy to understand. The layout of the book is such that it begins with the basics and overview of argument and rhetoric, and then launches into specific devices or strategies and examples. This is a great book for anyone taking a composition or argument course, or anyone interested in the art of being persuasive. A very practical and useful resource and the author handles it with an energetic tone with clear models to help the reader understand. Very useful!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melora

    I bought this for my high school student to read as an “after summer” refresher on persuasive essay writing. It really is perfect for this – it reviews rhetorical techniques and types of speeches/essays in a very entertaining way (though my student probably won't recognize the Yogi Bear/Jellystone Park references, and those to current British politics mostly went over my head as well). Leith provides numerous examples to illustrate the techniques he describes, and his style is conversational and I bought this for my high school student to read as an “after summer” refresher on persuasive essay writing. It really is perfect for this – it reviews rhetorical techniques and types of speeches/essays in a very entertaining way (though my student probably won't recognize the Yogi Bear/Jellystone Park references, and those to current British politics mostly went over my head as well). Leith provides numerous examples to illustrate the techniques he describes, and his style is conversational and humorous. He amply shows how rhetoric can be used to influence listeners/readers, both for good and for evil (chapters on aspects of rhetoric alternate with chapters on “Champions of Rhetoric,” in which the methods of famously and infamously effective orators are analyzed). He reviews the five canons of rhetoric, from invention through delivery (including a particularly interesting chapter on “Memory,” where he describes using a memory palace so well that I was actually able to remember the list of animals – a first for me!) His footnotes are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, too. As Leith reminds his readers, Cicero said that the purpose of rhetoric “was to move, educate, and delight (movere, docere, delectare).” This book about rhetoric succeeded for me in all three of those goals!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    When you load that pistol, what's the difference between a live round that hits the target and a dud that misses its mark? Ultimately, I didn't leave with a clear answer to that question. By going over great speeches from history, the author illustrates rhetorical tricks. But there must be plenty of speeches using the various listed techniques that have nevertheless been instantly forgotten. Still, it was interesting to look at great examples, and more practical than some recent psychobabble boo When you load that pistol, what's the difference between a live round that hits the target and a dud that misses its mark? Ultimately, I didn't leave with a clear answer to that question. By going over great speeches from history, the author illustrates rhetorical tricks. But there must be plenty of speeches using the various listed techniques that have nevertheless been instantly forgotten. Still, it was interesting to look at great examples, and more practical than some recent psychobabble books about persuasion. The basics of persuasive argument (ethos, pathos, logos) remain constant across the centuries. This is important information from someone who is passionate about the topic. The book is useful and entertaining, but disappointing: not simple enough to give to beginners, nor profound enough for enthusiasts. It feels like a great idea that was rushed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Farebrother

    I bought this book because it was reviewed on Channel 4 News. It is effectively a handbook of rhetoric: how to be a successful public speaker. On the face of it a very dry subject, but the author manages to breathe life into it, with the result that this is a very engaging book. He explores the history of rhetoric, from the Ancient Greeks to Barack Obama, and by so doing reveals how comprehensive the rules of rhetoric established in the ancient world were. They are as relevant today as they were I bought this book because it was reviewed on Channel 4 News. It is effectively a handbook of rhetoric: how to be a successful public speaker. On the face of it a very dry subject, but the author manages to breathe life into it, with the result that this is a very engaging book. He explores the history of rhetoric, from the Ancient Greeks to Barack Obama, and by so doing reveals how comprehensive the rules of rhetoric established in the ancient world were. They are as relevant today as they were in the mists of time, regardless of TV and the internet. Human nature has not changed, and subsequently the basic rules of communication have and will remain the same. The book thus goes beyond public speaking into communication in general, and is therefore relevant for every human being. As the most intelligent ape, communication is the most powerful tool in our toolbox, and an understanding of how it works can only be of use for all of us.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emma L.

    *** This is a spoiler-free review *** Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 (3/5 stars). I had to read this book for one if my university courses, academic discourse 2 to be specific. In all honesty, I truly don't have much tovsay about this book but I'm going to try anyway since I have this weird obsession with reviewing every book I read. Anyways, here we go: Some thoughts/opinions: - this book was written fine (it was pretty easy to understand which is always super chill if you have to use a book as a study book which *** This is a spoiler-free review *** Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 (3/5 stars). I had to read this book for one if my university courses, academic discourse 2 to be specific. In all honesty, I truly don't have much tovsay about this book but I'm going to try anyway since I have this weird obsession with reviewing every book I read. Anyways, here we go: Some thoughts/opinions: - this book was written fine (it was pretty easy to understand which is always super chill if you have to use a book as a study book which this was for me). - was pretty easy to understand. - I didn't fail this course so that's a bonus this book gets too. Hurray for me & this book, I guess. - it was somewhat actually interesting and sparked my interest in rhetorics. - even a year later I still remember some things this book thought me which is honestly remarkable. - I met the author when he spoke/gave a lecture at my university and I have to say he was a pretty nice and chill person. It's also the reason why my copy is signed. I don't know, if this book a shot/go if you're really interested in rhetorics.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marcos

    Brief introduction to the most important science of western civilization, it marks the elegance of language in a clear and appealing way, from the stanzas of poets to the sermons of revolutionary leaders, "words with loaded"is a book that opens the books of Cicero, aristotle, and the many champions of this now illusive and prolific craft.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    Impressively unfunny. Rife with already outdated and overwrought pop-culture references, a borderline condescending tone of voice and annoying footnotes created just to make HILARIOUS* comments. The admittedly well-structured and interesting theoretical material collapses under the weight of misguided hipness. *not actually hilarious, see?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Funny and useful, but I wish some of the examples were less cliche!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cian Morey

    "The best available analysis of what rhetoric is, and how it works." Above can be found a large-print back-cover endorsement of this book by none other than Mr Boris Johnson. So there. Now we really know we're in for a corker, don't we? "You Talkin' To Me?" is an engrossing look at a topic which really doesn't get looked at enough. Sam Leith details what rhetoric is and how to wield it in a manner that is informative, accessible, hilarious and, despite trotting back to Aristotle from time to time, "The best available analysis of what rhetoric is, and how it works." Above can be found a large-print back-cover endorsement of this book by none other than Mr Boris Johnson. So there. Now we really know we're in for a corker, don't we? "You Talkin' To Me?" is an engrossing look at a topic which really doesn't get looked at enough. Sam Leith details what rhetoric is and how to wield it in a manner that is informative, accessible, hilarious and, despite trotting back to Aristotle from time to time, current. We examine rhetoric through a linguistic lens via the handy glossary of Greek and Roman terminology; a historic lens, as Leith exalts its foremost proponents throughout time; a practical lens, as we are shown how it is highly relevant in today's world; and perhaps most importantly, a personal lens, and I would challenge any reader not to be happily swept along by Leith's contagious joy in what must be his favourite subject. There was a time when rhetoric was a flourishing field of academic study, when every schoolboy would have to learn tracts of Cicero off by heart or probably get fed to the lions. Tragically, those days are gone (most tragically for the lions, I suppose), and most of us agree that rhetoric has almost sputtered out of the public consciousness - at least in its most obvious sense. That's not to say it isn't there. It's a shame that this book was written before the Trump Age, but in any case we are shown that the right words in the right order can make a hell of a difference even today. Leith's style is ideal for his content; in turns knowledgeable, witty and stirring, just as the best speeches should be. Almost all confusion about what could have been an extremely dense concept is neatly unpacked, aided by friendly footnotes and eccentric examples whenever anything gets a bit messy. Between the theory we are greeted with rhetorical biographies of those who have done it best - everyone from Lincoln to the anonymous speechwriters of modern leaders. To say upon finishing this that rhetoric is stuffy and useless is impossible - the mere fact that you have read to the end proves the contrary. But beyond exhibiting the relevance of a fading art, Leith convinces us that there is an interesting aspect to rhetoric for everyone. We experience it daily without knowing it, and indeed, this book could change your outlook on a good deal of your life - you have heard of the rhetorical question, I presume? If you're still not convinced, consider this review. I had a neat exordium at the beginning by cracking a joke and using "we" instead of "I", followed by my narration in the second paragraph; paragraph three was a division of sorts and paragraph four contained most of the proof ; you might notice a touch of refutation in the first sentence of the last paragraph; and right now we're in the middle of a peroration , aren't we? The terminology might be meaningless to you now, of course, but do something about that and read this book. In short, if you like English and history - if you like books in general - and if you want to know how the establishment has been lying to you so persuasively for centuries, and if you want to learn how to lie better than them - this book is a must-read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Clark Hays

    Rhescuing Rhetoric Rhetoric has become a dirty word these days. Especially during an election year, “empty rhetoric” gets tossed around a lot by both sides which, as the author points out, is a rhetorical tactic. But Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama by Sam Leith does an admirable job of extracting rhetoric from the trashcan, dusting it off and showing how it is the cornerstone of all good communication, from poetry to fiction and from conversation to, of course, public Rhescuing Rhetoric Rhetoric has become a dirty word these days. Especially during an election year, “empty rhetoric” gets tossed around a lot by both sides which, as the author points out, is a rhetorical tactic. But Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama by Sam Leith does an admirable job of extracting rhetoric from the trashcan, dusting it off and showing how it is the cornerstone of all good communication, from poetry to fiction and from conversation to, of course, public presentations. He traces the evolution of classic rhetoric — its study and practice — from the early days of ancient Greece and Rome through the present day and along the way, uses fascinating examples to bring it to life, dissecting famous and not so famous speeches to illustrate all the various tricks and techniques that make an argument persuasive. And there is an unpronounceable term for practically every kind of rhetorical tactic imaginable and the glossary is packed with definitions of interesting techniques -- from anacoluthon to zeugma -- and will stay on my bookshelf as a consequence (occasionally I get to write speeches in my day job). Along the way, he profiles some of the most well-known (Lincoln, Churchill) and lesser well-known (Cartman, from Southpark) rhetoricians. There’s a dark side, of course, when rhetoric is used to motivate the baser instincts of humans (e.g., Hitler), but his style and approach speak to the hopefulness of good intentions and expertise linked to skill in delivery. All in all, it’s a fast, fun and free-flowing (though heavily laden with Brit humor and references) look at rhetoric, hopefully helping salvage a once proud name long-sullied by those who don’t even realize how easily they are moved by the art of persuasion. Words matter, and we all should be reminded of that on a regular basis.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stevedutch

    It is likely that many people, at least those for whom English is their first language, will have come across at some time in their lives speeches featuring phrases such as `for the people, by the people, of the people'; `I have come to bury Caesar not to praise him' and `We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender', and so on, and been impressed and possibly moved to It is likely that many people, at least those for whom English is their first language, will have come across at some time in their lives speeches featuring phrases such as `for the people, by the people, of the people'; `I have come to bury Caesar not to praise him' and `We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender', and so on, and been impressed and possibly moved to action by hearing them. Indeed, even if one considers the power of the word in more mundane circumstances than those providing the context for the examples mentioned above it is reasonable to suggest that the ebb and flow of our moods are dictated, at least to some extent, even if unconsciously, by the words we here all the time. Consider, for instance, those which form the book's title: on hearing these emanating from the mouth of Travis Bickle it doesn't take much imagination to surmise the effect produced in the mind of their recipient! In terms of persuasion, then, if the sword (or knife, or gun) is more immediately so, then words can do almost as good a job and, in all likelihood, their effect resonates for much longer down the years. The book, therefore, is about words and their use as the basic building blocks of rhetoric. Leith does a marvellous job of conveying the aforementioned power, providing snippets of many of the most memorable speeches of ancient and more modern times whilst, in the process, explaining just how their authors best employed those rules first outlined several millennia before the present day by such acknowledged masters of rhetoric as Cicero, Shakespeare, Churchill and Obama: even the Devil and Hitler get a look in! It is, as might be expected, well written, informative, witty and entertaining and a must read for all who love language and believe in its power to persuade; for better or for worse.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    As an apologia for the maligned and under appreciated craft of rhetoric, Sam Leith succeeds in this book in a persuasive argument for recovering this ancient skill. Rising to prominence in Ancient Greek democracy, despite noted detractors including Plato, Rhetoric was enshrined as one of the Liberal Arts. Leith defines Rhetoric as, "the attempt by one him an being to influence man other in words. He goes on to show the promise and the danger of well-chosen words in writing, "Ghandi never picked As an apologia for the maligned and under appreciated craft of rhetoric, Sam Leith succeeds in this book in a persuasive argument for recovering this ancient skill. Rising to prominence in Ancient Greek democracy, despite noted detractors including Plato, Rhetoric was enshrined as one of the Liberal Arts. Leith defines Rhetoric as, "the attempt by one him an being to influence man other in words. He goes on to show the promise and the danger of well-chosen words in writing, "Ghandi never picked up a sword. Karl Marx never used a gun." And in answering What Would Jesus Do, Leith states, "We know what he did. He talked to people." I had hoped for more nuts and bolts materials than I found here. Inspiring, yet thin on teaching, Words Like Loaded Pistols relies on examples from great speeches to uneven effect. Needing to fill in Aristotle's teaching leads to a not particularly useful chapter on Memory. But along the way, one does pick up a lot of basic rhetoric in a fairly fun read. The author succeeds at his own project of installing a love for rhetoric, even if I thought I was buying a more technique heavy text. As a preacher, I speak to group's most every week and so was glad for the inspiration. I will push on to find other books that are stronger on the "flowers of rhetoric."

  19. 5 out of 5

    The American Conservative

    'Sam Leith, former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph, novelist, and contributor to the Wall Street Journal and other publications, is cheeky, talented, smart, and a fine and easy writer, intoxicated by words and the way we arrange them to sell, persuade, praise, explain, attack. In "Words Like Loaded Pistols," he sets out to share his enthusiasm for rhetoric, and, with only an occasional misfire, he succeeds admirably, in large part because of his unflagging good nature and offbeat sense of 'Sam Leith, former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph, novelist, and contributor to the Wall Street Journal and other publications, is cheeky, talented, smart, and a fine and easy writer, intoxicated by words and the way we arrange them to sell, persuade, praise, explain, attack. In "Words Like Loaded Pistols," he sets out to share his enthusiasm for rhetoric, and, with only an occasional misfire, he succeeds admirably, in large part because of his unflagging good nature and offbeat sense of humor.' Read the full review, "Swimming in Rhetoric," on our website: http://www.theamericanconservative.co...

  20. 4 out of 5

    David

    Competent, even good, introduction to the art of Rhetoric and many of its concepts. Whether or not Mr. Obama is a rhetoric genius may be up for debate, but there's an argument to be made for it. This book is written with the university student in mind, Words Like Loaded Guns says about everything one needs to know to determine the target market and emotional maturity of the aesthetic. That said, Mr. Leith has written a book most rhetorical beginners will find useful, as long as they are cultural Competent, even good, introduction to the art of Rhetoric and many of its concepts. Whether or not Mr. Obama is a rhetoric genius may be up for debate, but there's an argument to be made for it. This book is written with the university student in mind, Words Like Loaded Guns says about everything one needs to know to determine the target market and emotional maturity of the aesthetic. That said, Mr. Leith has written a book most rhetorical beginners will find useful, as long as they are culturally astute and native English speakers...if not, then those readers may wish to give this book a pass. Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

  21. 5 out of 5

    Artur Massana

    This book has been translated into Spanish and I have just read the Spanish version. I have given it four stars because I think it is a useful first approach to the topic. Sometimes very funny, for instance I laughed a lot with the deep rhetorical analysis of a single song of the film South Park. The only problem I see with this book is that almost all examples are very related to anglosaxon culture and politics. I think the author and translator might have tried to use more local and familiar e This book has been translated into Spanish and I have just read the Spanish version. I have given it four stars because I think it is a useful first approach to the topic. Sometimes very funny, for instance I laughed a lot with the deep rhetorical analysis of a single song of the film South Park. The only problem I see with this book is that almost all examples are very related to anglosaxon culture and politics. I think the author and translator might have tried to use more local and familiar examples to spanish speaking audiences.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Good general introduction to rhetoric. Leith offers practical tips on public speaking and the uses of rhetoric with examples from Cicero to Obama. He also attempts to come to grips with the fact that rhetoric is a powerful tool that "persuades and cajoles, inspires and bamboozles, thrills and misdirects." He acknowledges that "[r]hetoric's effectiveness is . . . independent of its moral content or that of its users," but argues that "the more good guys get glued into how it works, the better off Good general introduction to rhetoric. Leith offers practical tips on public speaking and the uses of rhetoric with examples from Cicero to Obama. He also attempts to come to grips with the fact that rhetoric is a powerful tool that "persuades and cajoles, inspires and bamboozles, thrills and misdirects." He acknowledges that "[r]hetoric's effectiveness is . . . independent of its moral content or that of its users," but argues that "the more good guys get glued into how it works, the better off we will be."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Charles Cohen

    When I started this, I thought I was buying one book - about the power of rhetoric, and how great speakers create great speeches and so move people - and actually bought something else. Words... has some of that appreciation, but it's also very technical, delving into the more esoteric aspects of rhetoric (of which there are MANY). But then I realized that all I wanted was a book to help me be a better speech-writer and -giver, and then I settled down and really enjoyed it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erkan Saka

    Easy read. Refreshes the very basics of rhetoric. It is a good idea to provide portrayals of rhetorical figures from the classics and moderns. In the end, there is a good dictionary of rhetorical concepts. I wish there could be simple explanations of these concepts in the main text itself. The readers needs to go back and forth...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I think this was more of a 2.5 book. There is a lot of good information about rhetoric in this book. Leith makes tons of jokes, too, so he can keep you entertained. I just had a hard time following some of his writing though because sometimes when he inserts jokes, it interrupts the flow of the text.

  26. 5 out of 5

    H.

    A good introduction or review of classic rhetoric by a great fan of the subject. Not a textbook or how-to manual, this book is more about sparking interest and is best when Leith is parsing texts. Rhetoric texts are often dense and staid, but Leith writes with joy and his enthusiasm is infectious. Recommended for anyone with an interest in language.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Just in time for political debates, an entertaining review of rhetorical skills, with lively examples ranging from the frequent use of tricolon in AC/DC songs to "all your base are belong to us" as hypallage or David Lloyd George's fondness for enargia when talking about coal miners.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    I've used selections of this in my current comp class. I like the examples and the clear analysis of rhetoric. A lot better than a standard rhetoric textbook.

  29. 5 out of 5

    James

    I like the topic of rhetoric and this gave a readable overview with some good examples from history.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Abbie

    I found it a great introduction to and, ultimately, summary of rhetoric. Made me chuckle a lot too.

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