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4.2 out of 5 stars
You Talkin' To Me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Some say we live in the age of communication so it seems odd that the study of rhetoric seems antiquated and neglected - part of an irrelevant classical tradition.

In a introduction which starts with a funny and apposite scene from The Simpsons, Sam Leith says 'So although rhetoric is all around us, we don't see it. Indeed it's precisely because it's all around us that we don't see it. Explaining rhetoric to a human being is, or should be, like explaining water to a fish.' He goes on to say 'We use language to cajole and seduce, to impress and inspire, to endear and to justify. Language happens because human beings are desiring machines; and what knits desire and language is rhetoric.' At that point I was sold - my interest was piqued. What kept me reading was his clear style and wonderful examples from Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost to The Simpsons, from Churchill to Obama.

The book is structured according to the Five Parts of rhetoric
1) Invention
Ethos, pathos and logos

2) Arrangement
For example narration, proof and refutation

3) Style
For example, decorum and jokes

4) Memory
some top tips on using a memory house

5) Delivery

and then he explores the three branches of rhetoric:
Deliberative Rhetoric
Judicial Rhetoric and
Epideicitic Rhetoric

Don't be put off by the classical terms. If you have an important presentation or speech to give then this book will be very useful, but it's also something that can be dipped in to with pleasure and will reward and enrich the everyday communications.

Sam Leith has pulled off that very difficult balancing act with his book which is entertaining and inspiring as well as informative and educational. It is a master class in rhetoric.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a fabulous book. Fab-u-lous.
Why's that? Because reading it makes you feel intelligent.
A real expert can explain comlicated things so that people new to the subject can understand them too. That's what this book does.
Rhetoric. I didn't really know what that was, but I thought perhaps it was boring. It turns out that it's fascinating, or it is when Sam Leith writes about it.

I spend a lot of my working life trying to convince business people that they don't have to use words like contextualisation or phrases like integrated stratigic teaming to make themselves look clever. Aiming to show that if they can explain something complicated so people can understand it, they'll get better results. I'm going to take this book with me to all my workshops from now on. I used to take a geology book called Understanding Earth for the same reason, but this one's smaller.

Sam Leith has made me smarter. I didn't learn Latin at school, but that's OK because Sam explains it for you.
But as well as using Aristotle and Obama, he quotes South Park, Kurt Cobain and Billy Connelly.
And it tells me that I could probably have rearranged this review to have a stronger impact. Buy it anyway. Even if you don't intend to write a speech or make a speech. Even if you never write anything.

Read this because it makes you a more intelligent listener.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 September 2013
I enjoyed "You Talkin' to Me?". It provides a very accessible and readable introduction to what could be the very dry subject of rhetoric. There is a good deal of history there (but not too much) and good explanation of the key elements of this useful skill. What I felt the book lacked was sufficient examples of these elements. There are simply not enough extracts of great speeches in there, and (in my view) not enough great speakers highlighted. So, for example, there is a chapter about Churchill in there but only a few lines of his actual speeches. President Obama does a little better, but overall there are just not enough examples of this fine art. Even if the author included a list of great speeches with web page addresses so we could look them up, that would be useful.

I found the book interesting and engaging, but I wanted to read more examples of the art.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I think this book does for rhetoric what 'Eats Shoots and Leaves' does for grammar. It provides a highly readable and hilarious guide to the history and practice of rhetoric.

Everyone knows what a rhethorical question is, i.e. one that suggests its answer rather than demands it. The book shows that the subject is about a series of tricks in which arguments are made to persuade others to come to the point of view of the speaker. Of course, it is just a prevalent in writing.

The thing that is clear is that people talk and think rhetorically almost by instinct and respond to it even without knowing. This book gives a very quick and highly readable account of how rhetoric works and begins with Aristotle's formulation of the rules and then looks at some of the finest [and infamous] orators who have mastered rhethoric, including Cicero and Demosthenes, Abraham Lincoln, Churchill and Hitler, Thatcher and Reagan and in our time President Barack Obama. On the way, he also uses examples from pop songs, advertisements, comedy sketches and film and plays.

I think it is very useful for everyone who communicates to know about rhetoric. Use of rhetoric can make your written work become more colourful. Use of rhetoric can make your speech more persuasive. Understanding of rhetoric can also make you recognise where you are being bamboozled and manipulated.

Immediately after finishing this book, I was asked to give a talk at a staff meeting about some work I had been doing. It is normally a tedious part of the meeting when most people switch off - other people's work not being as interesting as their own. Just for fun, I thought I would apply some rhetorical techniques to my talk, such as anaphora and tricolon. I thought more carefully about the order and choice of words for their effect on the listeners. I had so much fun playing with the material that the talk went down really well and I even managed to raise a few laughs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Reading this was more fun than I expected. Rhetoric "is simply the art of persuasion", or so says Sam Leith in this little gem. It's informing as well as being funny and I will never listen to a politician or any public speaker again without exclaiming "I know what they're doing!"

There's history here, and more in-depth knowledge of the rhetorical terms for those of us who want to dig deeper, and if one knows a bit already about philosophy and the classics, it is easier to enjoy the personal insights into the real people behind the classical rhetoric. It is not really academic, nor entirely populist, rather somewhere in between, with plenty of references, and yet an easy delivery.

It is reasonably well structured in sections to enable us to find our way around the different aspects of rhetoric. The Appendix and Footnotes are very useful, so that even the rest of us uninitiated in the black arts of oratory are likely to find this book enjoyable.

It has plenty of very amusing and revealing comments on speeches by the great, the good and the downright evil, from war time leaders Churchill and Hitler, through Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, Richard Nixon to Barak Obama. Leith even finds rhetoric delivered by TV cartoon characters in the Simpsons and South Park.

And for a final neat trick, are you having problems remembering your presentation for the office? Why not try the memory palace game recommended by Quintillian, a couple of thousand years ago. It still works!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2014
I have read this 2 and a half times. Great, entertaining, enlightening, and so amusing when you say;

'Im reading a really good book'

'Are you? What's it called?'

'Are you Talking to Me?'

'yes I am, What's it called?'

Never gets old.

An absolute must if you ever have to speak in public of muster an argument....or even if you don't.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2014
I dipped in and out of this book over weeks if not months before I finished it. I largely overlooked the technical jargon --- which I didn't find helpful but I suppose every analysis requires its own vocabulary --- and read it for Leith's deconstruction of the speeches (the modern stuff was the most interesting) and replication of how 'it word's.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2014
Once you start reading this, the TV news becomes far more interesting. The use of rhetoric, the art of persuasion, by both media types and politicians is clear to see. Very enjoyable, with vivid examples.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2013
Well written book, with lots of examples. I enjoyed the examples and the author's analysis of various speeches, but I found myself disagreeing with him trying to fit the speakers to his classifications.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2014
Superb reading using examples on Obama, Maggie Thatcher and Winston Church Hill,if you want to use a couple of typical speachs made by great leaders then this is the bool.
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