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The Week in Ideas (4/3)

Posted by Josh Rothman  April 3, 2012 05:10 PM

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The case against sincerity in politics: R. Jay Magill, Jr. on why sincerity might be a bad thing. "In the realm of politics, in fact, the demand for sincerity is relatively new, a legacy of Reformation-era religion that only in recent decades has come to seem as important, or even more important than, qualities like leadership, managerial skill, or knowledge.... By fixating on candidates’ sincerity, we risk ignoring their more significant political traits, and we’re rejecting qualities -- like the ability to compromise -- that might, in the complex world of democratic politics, be considerably more useful virtues."

Why Boston needs a literary trail: Paul Lewis points out that "New York may be the nation’s literary capital today, but during the early decades of our national life, American letters took root and thrived here in Boston." And yet, "Today, many Bostonians are barely aware of this legacy.... At what is arguably the single most important literary site in America — the Old Corner Bookstore, where masterpieces of the American Renaissance, including “The Scarlet Letter” and “Walden,” were published — they find not a museum but a small plaque on the brick wall of a Chipotle Mexican Grill."

Ahmadinejad's voice: Farah Stockman talks with Banafshesh Keynoush, the Iranian president's long-time interpreter. "Ahmadinejad was the president who took the message of trying to reach out to Americans farthest. He tried with his own way. He wrote a letter to President Bush. If he had gotten an opening with America, it would have taken him far back home. But the message just got continuously lost. He couldn’t understand that the way he delivered his messages was not a way that Americans could hear it."

Plus: Erin McKean on the language of hoaxes, and Kevin Lewis on how "simply holding a gun yourself can make you think others have a gun, too."

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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