I'm in La Manzanilla, a tiny village on the west coast of Mexico, on vacation with my folks. I don't speak much Spanish, and don't expect to learn much in the next few days, so I've been reading a lot of books:
How to be Alone, essays by Jonathan Franzen
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
The Gold Coast, by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Man Who Knew Charlie Chaplin, a novel about the Weimar Republic, by Eric Koch
Spinoza, Practical Philosophy, by Gilles Deleuze
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Franzen's essays were thoughtful, Patchett's novel was comfortably improbable but and quite engaging, and Robinson was technologically off the mark but existentially more tuned in, vernacular and flowing than he usually is, and at least as politically interesting as he usually is. Eric Koch was historically fascinating and for that reason worthwhile, but rhetorically inadequate, Deleuze was dense yet clear, and orders of magnitude more enjoyable than most commentaries on philosophy that I've read. I still can't decide what or how to think about Marquez, which is probably a good sign.
I just noticed that Robinson has a new book out (The Years of Rice and Salt) in which he apparently attempts to rewrite world history as if Europe has never existed. Apparently, imagining an entirely new civilization on Mars and squeezing it into three novels wasn't ambitious enough.