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Storytelling: Bewitching the Modern Mind Hardcover – March 2, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184467391X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844673919
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,869,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Salmon (Verbicide), a columnist for Le Monde, makes a riveting case for how public relations (or more euphemistically, storytelling) has come to dominate statecraft and business in the West. He traces the political uses of narrative to the end of the 20th century, when the declining value of branding led to product narratives taking priority over logos—a practice made ubiquitous by a generation of Orwellian management and political gurus who recognized how appropriate narratives could increase efficiency and even legitimize various questionable practices. Attributing the success of these techniques to a hunger for stability in a postmodern era where grand narratives have collapsed, the book examines the cozy relationship between modern politics and storytelling, where personal narrative trumps policy and movie makers advise politicians on possible terrorist plots. Despite the value of his insights, the author's claims about the novelty of such practices are questionable, as he ignores the long history of propaganda and public relations. Furthermore, the current religious climate in the U.S. alone suggests that grand narratives are a long way from collapsing. The story of storytelling needs to stretch far beyond the recent past. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“This book, which is both concise and clearly written ... guides us through these texts which are largely unknown and now very influential.”—Le Monde

“There are certain books that make you feel less stupid after reading them than before ... It is a fascinating and never jargon-heavy book.”—Le Progrès

“Fascinating ... intellectually satisfying ... Salmon’s insights are though-provoking and have ramifications beyond the world of advertising.”—James P. Othmer, Washington Post

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Doug Lipman on June 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Salmon is concerned about the growth of applied storytelling: storytelling used to persuade, sell, or educate. In particular, he rails against the use of stories and storytelling in business and politics, in seven chapters with titles like these:

- The New "Fiction Economy" (about manipulating workers emotionally so they can, in turn, fool customers)
- Turning Politics Into a Story (about the role of narrative in recent presidential politics in the U.S.)
- Telling War Stories (about video-game-like, immersive military training) and
- The Propaganda Empire (Karl Rove, Fox News, the internet and more.)

Salmon sees all these trends as combining to form a frightening replacement of a reality-based world with a series of "shared fictions" (p.67). His claim is that storytelling puts emotions over rational thought, elevates entertaining fiction over hard reality, and replaces political skill with "fictional competence."

But I believe that, like all tools, storytelling can be used for good or bad, to illuminate the nature of reality or to conceal it. Salmon, to be sure, puts his finger on some disturbing uses of storytelling. But he focuses blame on the tool, not on those using it or even on those of us who allow ourselves to be manipulated.

I would have loved a good book about the dangers of mis-applied storytelling. But this isn't it.

Salmon writes like a muck-raking journalist. He is good at assembling many examples of storytelling-as-deception and assembling them into an alarming montage. But he has clearly spent more time compiling examples than constructing a penetrating analysis of them - or suggesting a reasonable corrective for society.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reeve-wilson Law Office on July 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Doug's review, I gathered that Mr. Salmon had written an attack on storytelling. I purchased the book anyway, because Doug's negative review made the book sound perversely interesting. Sadly, the book is so poorly written it is difficult to understand what point the author is trying to make.

Since Mr. Salmon takes issue with the current use of storytelling, I would assume that when he wrote this book he made a point of NOT telling a good story. I understand this. However, he has also failed to make a clear argument. The essence of a clear argument is that an author clearly and succinctly states a claim, then sets out reasons that support the claim. Mr. Salmon is so full of scorn for the current use of storytelling, much of his book is a compilation of brief quotes from other authors' negative views. But he fails to tell a good story and he fails to make a clear argument.

If I can parse some sense out of his scrambled prose, I gather Mr. Salmon is making a case against the misuse of storytelling by corporations, advertisers and politicians to mislead and deceive the public. If this is what he is point he is trying to make, I agree with him. Nevertheless, the book is still poorly written. If you want to read a book that makes this point clearly, that explains exactly how narrative is being used to deceive and that makes rational suggestions about an effective response, read George Lakoff's "The Political Mind".
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Good on May 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed and found this book to be unpersuasive. The author makes statements about broad changes in our society, with few facts or arguments to back them up. For example in one passage he describes how simply making a purchase at a modern retail store is an act of participation in a narrative, but he never explains how or if this would not have been true 20 (or 200) years ago. I wanted to learn about how institutions and politicians are manipulating the hard-wiring of the human brain and using stories to get what they want; instead the book provides lots of anecdotes (heh) and heavy borrowing from others to demonstrate that everyone's talking about storytelling these days. He seemed to have few concrete statements of its own, and looked like the author simply lexus-nexus searched for the word "storytelling" and provided citations for every instance he could find.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn Altman on March 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. It considers the rise of storytelling in all manner of contemporary settings - from politics and management to advertising and the military. It is critical of the ways that storytelling can be used as tools for coercion and manipaulation. It draws on a huge range of research and ideas, yet is very readable. 'Storytelling' made me think about lots of things - I highly recommend it.
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