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October 25, 1987|Suzanne Nightingale

SMALL COMFORTS by Tom Bodett (Addison-Wesley: $12.95; 166 pp.). Tom Bodett, probably best known as the bassett-voiced announcer for Motel 6, is on his way to being a celebrity before most people realize how he got there. "Small Comforts," Bodett's latest collection of comments and comic pieces, should help answer that question.

What Bodett does is live life in the slow lane in Homer, Alaska, and then write about it. Fatherhood, obnoxious gadgets, how to get your hands really clean (make meat loaf)--these are the everyday fodder for Bodett's droll style.

In "Small Comforts," those wry observations are leavened and enriched by deft glimpses into Bodett's darker side as well: lingering doubts about trading the sweaty camaraderie of construction work for the scary solitude of a word processor; melancholy marvel at his young son's joy in each new day; the resisted--and then mourned--impulse to buy a meal for an old man carrying the sign: "I'M HUNGRY." Meditations like these aren't easy to capture, especially when they're flanked by humor, but the spare style that carries most of Bodett's light pieces is even more effective in his serious essays.

No doubt, Bodett's rising celebrity and commercial success (he also reads commentaries on "All Things Considered") will present a shakedown challenge to his just-us-folks style. If he doesn't go all self-conscious on us--buy a Volvo, or move to Connecticut or something--he should do just fine. Bodett still works with his hands; he just builds things with a word processor, that's all.

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