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November 04, 1990

THE END OF THE ROAD By Tom Bodett (Bantam: $4.95). Tom Bodett lives in Homer, Alaska, at the end of a paved-road network that spans the North American continent, and The End of the Road is the name of the fictionalized Alaska town where these comic stories take place. He obviously has modeled his work on Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon" tales, but Bodett's humor has a sharper tone. Keillor seems to know and love the people of his imaginary town; Bodett knows his characters--sometimes a little better than he'd like to--but he doesn't love them. His low-key accounts of their maladroit romances, pointless feuds and petty triumphs are often very funny, but someone else ends up as the butt of the jokes. The impression that Bodett creates these tales by the fire with his feet up and a mug of cocoa at hand is heightened by the excerpts Bantam has released on two audiocassettes ($14.95). His commentaries on NPR and his radio commercials for the Motel 6 chain brought Bodett national prominence, and he gives his own work the same appealing, underplayed delivery in a voice as solid and flat as the Iowa prairie.

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