Words Like Loaded Pistols by Sam Leith
Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama

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Synopsis

Rhetoric is all around us. It’s what inspires armies, convicts criminals, and makes or breaks presidential candidates. And it isn’t just the preserve of politicians. It’s in the presentation to a key client, the half-time talk in the locker room, and the plea to your children to eat their vegetables. Rhetoric gives words power: it persuades and cajoles, inspires and bamboozles, thrills and misdirects. You have been using rhetoric yourself, all your life. After all, you know what a rhetorical question is, don’t you?
In Words Like Loaded Pistols, Sam Leith traces the art of persuasion, beginning in ancient Syracuse and taking us on detours as varied and fascinating as Elizabethan England, Milton’s Satanic realm, the Springfield of Abraham Lincoln and the Springfield of Homer Simpson. He explains how language has been used by the great heroes of rhetoric (such as Cicero and Martin Luther King Jr.), as well as some villains (like Adolf Hitler and Richard Nixon.)

Leith provides a primer to rhetoric’s key techniques. In Words Like Loaded Pistols, you’ll find out how to build your own memory-palace; you’ll be introduced to the Three Musketeers: Ethos, Pathos and Logos; and you’ll learn how to use chiasmus with confidence and occultation without thinking about it. Most importantly of all, you will discover that rhetoric is useful, relevant – and absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

 

About Sam Leith

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Sam Leith is a former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph, and contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, Prospect, Guardian, Evening Standard and Spectator. He is the author of a novel, The Coincidence Engine as well as two works of non-fiction. He lives in London.
 
Published May 1, 2012 by Basic Books. 322 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Words Like Loaded Pistols

Kirkus Reviews

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With chapters on each of the five parts of rhetoric and the three branches of oratory, and spotlights on “champions of rhetoric” from Satan to Obama, the book fulfills Cicero’s three objectives of rhetoric: “to move, educate, and delight.” Required reading for aspiring writers, lawyers, politic...

Mar 15 2012 | Read Full Review of Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rh...

Publishers Weekly

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Timed for a presidential election year, this sassy, smart book outlines and illustrates nearly every rhetorical trope and flourish related to the art of persuasion. Following precepts gleaned from the

Mar 19 2012 | Read Full Review of Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rh...

Publishers Weekly

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A study of Hitler’s oratory and a priceless analysis of Richard Nixon’s “Checkers Speech” further prove one of the central tenets of this anxiety: “Rhetoric’s effectiveness is, in the final analysis, independent of its moral content or that of its users.” Thus, the lessons of Aristo...

Mar 19 2012 | Read Full Review of Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rh...

City Book Review

The words of such champions of monologue as Churchill, Cicero, Obama, Lincoln, and Mark Antony are parsed and scrutinized with razor-honed attention to detail, only to be contrasted with humorous, yet effective examples from contemporary sources like Aaron Sorkin, The Simpsons, and Eric Cartman.

Aug 09 2012 | Read Full Review of Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rh...

The American Conservative

Leith reminds us of the extraordinary effort he put into making that rhetoric work, although Leith, perhaps like many of his generation (he was born the year Richard Nixon resigned), is less than enamored of Churchill’s rhetorical “high style.” But the moral content of his work is something else.

Oct 04 2012 | Read Full Review of Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rh...

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