In marrying Sylvie, a beautiful but humorless and depressive Swiss, expatriate Paul Swanson has obviously made a big mistake: during the uneasy term of this book they live in separate places, corded only by their diabetic son Jean-Paul and twenty miles of Provencal hills. Writing travel pieces for a guidebook series out of Monte Carlo, Paul manages to both scrape by and get out of the house now and then: Cannes, Grasse, the Alps--places which also allow Wiser to record expatriate perceptions and discrepancies. The style is satiny and sharp--about Sylvie's hypochondria: "". . . prescriptions were billets-doux, and the casual request Revenez en dix jours was a love tryst in medical code."" And in Paul's former employer, a Bernie Cornfeld-type venture capitalist named Duff, whose pyramid scheme ""Amazing Growth"" went bust and who is now into porno novels, Wiser has a fascinating character; unfortunately, he does too little with him. All eyes are on Paul's sad mood (he's surely one of the top ten diffident protagonists of the year), and scenes of animation are isolated and rare. Wiser's denouement is equally as sluggish, reminding one of a very similar scene in Bellow's Herzog--a benevolent and desperate childnapping--and it's a shame. You end up resenting the numbing pall his main and mightily blue character has cast over a very talented writer.