Preston Falls

PRESTON FALLS David Gates (Knopf, $25) Doug Willis is the kind of overeducated middle-class wise guy whose personalized screensaver reads ”I CAN’T GO ON I’LL GO ON”; who, when asked at a restaurant whether he has reservations, replies, ”Who wouldn’t?”; and who notes that when a waitress takes his order, ”She pronounces it like Nabokov’s Ada.” Willis has left his wife and two kids, ostensibly to spend a couple of months fixing up their country home, but really to veer into a bang-up midlife crisis, complete with excessive drinking, drugging, and humiliating exchanges with working-class people who see through Willis’ petty tragedy like a just-Windexed window. Gates makes Willis’ self-absorption sympathetic in two ways: by letting us in on the thoughts and pain of his family and by keeping Willis’ despair excruciatingly funny and astringently heartbreaking. A

Preston Falls
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