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Louie Zamperini’s amazing life is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It has remained on the New York Times bestseller list for almost four years (a remarkable feat!), and on Christmas Day the much-anticipated movie adaptation is slated for release. Although it is one of my favorite books, I have to agree with Collin Hansen: “The title is all wrong.” After the war, Louie returned home a broken man.
It was late on a school night, so Jennifer’s kids were already asleep when she got a phone call from a friend of her 15-year-old daughter, Jasmine. “Jasmine is on a Web page and she’s naked.” Jennifer woke Jasmine, and throughout the night, the two of them kept getting texts from Jasmine’s friends with screenshots of the Instagram account. It looked like a porn site—shot after shot of naked girls—only these were real teens, not grown women in pigtails. Jennifer recognized some of them from Jasmine’s high school. And there, in the first row, was her daughter, “just standing there, with her arms down by her sides,” Jennifer told me. “There were all these girls with their butts cocked, making pouty lips, pushing their boobs up, doing porny shots, and you’re thinking, Where did they pick this up? And then there was Jasmine in a fuzzy picture looking awkward.” (The names of all the kids and parents in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.) You couldn’t easily identify her, because the picture was pretty dark, but the connection had been made anyway. “OMG no f‑ing way that’s Jasmine,” someone had commented under her picture. “Down lo ho,” someone else answered, meaning one who flies under the radar, because Jasmine was a straight‑A student who played sports and worked and volunteered and was generally a “goody-goody two shoes,” her mom said. She had long, silky hair and doe eyes and a sweet face that seemed destined for a Girl Scouts pamphlet, not an Instagram account where girls were called out as hos or thots (thot stands for “that ho over there”).
Marilynne Robinson tracks the movements of grace as if it were a wild animal, appearing for fleeting intervals and then disappearing past the range of vision, emerging again where we least expect to find it. Her novels are interested in what makes grace necessary at all—shame and its afterlife, loss and its residue, the limits and betrayals of intimacy.
In Lila, her brilliant and deeply affecting new novel, even her description of sunlight in a St. Louis bordello holds a kind of heartbreak: “When a house is shut up like that in the middle of a summer day the light that comes in through any crack is as sharp as a blade.” The notion that light might hurt—that illumination doesn’t always arrive as salvation, or that salvation might ache before it heals—echoes the novel’s articulation of a more personal kind of pain. “That was loneliness. When you’re scalded, touch hurts, it makes no difference if it’s kindly meant.”
Selling a live-action superhero for teens is a tough gig these days for DC Comics. Their current offerings include a plethora of heroes, but few role models. Instead of the wholesome Clark Kent of Smallville or Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, DC’s Superman du jour is Zach Snyder’s glum Man of Steel. In place of the tongue-in-cheek George Clooney, DC’s Batman is the morally troubled, forbidding rich-boy type played by Christian Bale. For adolescents who have outgrown Teen Titans, Marvel still dominates the market.
I was a massive Simpsons fan as a child. And when I say massive, I really do mean – huge. It’s still one of the more memorable moments prior to my wedding day: emptying out my childhood bedroom with my (now) wife, only for her to discover notebooks filled with minute observations about the show. Obscure number plates, birthdays of secondary characters, dates of key events and much more besides. Having already paid for the reception venue she couldn’t exactly retract her commitment to marry me, although my mind contemplated that possibility when she hyperventilated laughing at “little Nathan,” circa 1999.