In The New Republic, Rachel Shteir reviews R. Jay Magill’s new book Sincerity: How a moral ideal born five hundred years ago inspired religious wars, modern art, hipster chic, and the curious notion that we all have something to say (no matter how dull):
Today, while sincerity is less apparent than ever, we seem to crave it more. We long for something real (or we say we do). And yet the landfill-sized amount of faux sincerity in the public space creates suspicion about the actual existence of the real deal. That is why Stephen Colbert and other ironists have been so successful.
R. Jay Magill, Jr. believes that the best place to mine the nuances of the moral ideal lies in the encounter between two individuals. But while these interactions are fruitful, his argument is larger. He posits that our always-conflicted relationship with sincerity has—at least since the 1980s, but especially since September 11, the explosion of the Internet, and the economic crash—become far more fraught. We acknowledge “[sincerity’s] decline with a kind of resentful remorse.”
If you’re anything like me, you probably skipped the review and clicked through to look at the book itself, based on its outrageous title alone. I may not judge a book by its cover, but a really good title will always catch my attention.