Whatcha Reading, Nathan Vass?

Every week we ask an interesting figure what they're digging into. Have ideas who we should reach out to? Let it fly: info@seattlereviewofbooks.com. Want to read more? Check out the archives.

Nathan Vass is the bus-driving author of the book The Lines That Make Us: Stories from Nathan's Bus, which collects writing from his blog "The View From Nathan's Bus". Besides his night job on the 7 line, he's also a photographer, filmmaker, and will appearing this Tuesday, January 15, to discuss the new book.

What are you reading now?

Underworld, by Don Delillo. Most of us can by now agree that this 1997 doorstop should've eaten the National Book Award for breakfast over its competition. Delillo's depth of ability in the act of seeing is unparalled, and that in combination with its gasp-inducing dexterity of prose and the prodigious scope of the its panorama of interlinked introspections, together make it easy to argue for this being the definitive post-war American novel. The final word on the texture of Twentieth-century American life.

What did you read last?

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. Wharton, writing in 1920, is perfectly positioned to sculpt a level-headed analysis of late 19th-century sophistication in all its casual ridiculousness and suppressed emotions, while suffusing her prose with modernism's heady belief in the dreams of possibility. Her characters are smarter and more gifted than the society they live in will ever allow, and their awareness of something greater, though they have never experienced it, represents a rebellion against repressive expectations I find deeply optimistic in its humanism, and very timely.

What are you reading next?

Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, by Susan Faludi. Our current wave of feminism, though inspiring, probably anticipates what all other feminist movements have had to suffer: a protracted, systematic backlash. Faludi's landmark tome of what happened throughout the 1980s can hopefully serve as a warning. Her companion volume, 1999's Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, explores what today's cultural discourse hasn't caught up to yet: why most men feel emasculated living in a society that tells them they have agency, should be in control, need to be heroes, and know how to fix everything — when they don't, and aren't. Essential reading.