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Storytelling: Bewitching the Modern Mind Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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“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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- 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.Read more ›
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".