A witty, elegant enquiry into the art of persuasion
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.
Sam Leith is a former Literary Editor of the Daily Telegraph, and contributes regularly to the Evening Standard, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Spectator and Prospect. He's the author of two nonfiction books: Dead Pets and Sod's Law and a novel, The Coincidence Engine.
'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.', Charlotte Higgins, Guardian
'Entertaining ... You finish this book more than ready to rock a first in rhetoric.', Hermione Eyre, Evening Standard
'This is the best available analysis', Boris Johnson
'Witty and revealing ... the chapter on Arrangement alone would probably bump up most student degrees by a class, not to mention the average oration', James McConnachie, Sunday Times
'Leith gives modern relevance to an ancient practice. Read this entertaining and instructive book and you will never again mistake an occultatio for an occupatio.', Ian Finlayson, The Times