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Bodett, Thomas Edward 1955-

Bodett, Thomas Edward 1955-
(Tom Bodett)


PERSONAL:

Born February 23, 1955, in Champagne, IL; son of Peter C. (a mechanical engineer) and Florence E. (an accountant) Bodett; married Debi J. Hochstetler (an artist and teacher), December 26, 1978; children: Courtney H. (son). Education: Attended Michigan State University.

ADDRESSES:

Home—P.O. Box 268, Putney VT 05346. Agent—International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd. #155, Beverly Hills, CA 32767.

CAREER:

Writer and broadcaster. Logger and commercial fisherman, 1975-77; Bodett Construction, Inc., Homer, AK, owner of offices in Homer and Petersburg, 1977-85. Former president of board of directors of Kachemak Bay Broadcasting, Inc. (public radio station); commentator for "All Things Considered," a series on National Public Radio, 1984-86, and "Alaska News Nightly," on Alaska Public Radio, beginning in 1984; Travels on America's Historic Trails with Tom Bodett, host, Travel Channel. Voice actor for television and film, including Animaniacs, 1993, and Wakko's Wish, 1999, and Wishing Star and Pinky and the Brain, Warner Bros. Animation. Has also appeared on Saturday Night Live and National Geographic Explorer.

MEMBER:

Authors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Alaska Press Club commentary award, 1985, for Small Comforts, and radio feature award, 1986, for "Answering Machines."

WRITINGS:


UNDER NAME TOM BODETT


As Far As You Can Go without a Passport: The View from the End of the Road (essays), Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1985.

Small Comforts: More Comments and Comic Pieces (essays), Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1987.

The End of the Road (short stories), Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.

The Big Garage on Clearshot: Growing Up, Growing Old, and Going Fishing at the End of the Road (short stories), Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.

(With Angela M. Herb and the editors of The Milepost) Alaska A to Z: The Most Comprehensive Book of Facts and Figures Ever Compiled about Alaska, Vernon Publications (Bellevue, WA), 1993.

The Free Fall of Webster Cummings (short stories), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1996.

(Author of foreword) J. Kingston Pierce, America's Historic Trails with Tom Bodett, KQED Books (San Francisco, CA), 1997.

Williwaw! (children's novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.

Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier: A Novel in Stories (juvenile) Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.

Also author of teleplay for pilot of End of the Road (based on Bodett's book The End of the Road), for Universal Television. Author of "We Alaskans," a weekly column in Anchorage Daily News, beginning 1985; columnist for Cabin magazine, 1986-87. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Reader's Digest, Redbook, and Alaska. Spoken word audio recordings by Bodett include Exploded, Gang of Seven (Larkspur, CA), 1992, Old Fools and Young Hearts, BDD Audio (New York, NY), 1993, Peach Picking Time, Nova Audio Books (Grand Haven, MI), 1995, and Ed's Fruits and Vegetables, Nova Audio Books (Grand Haven, MI), 1996. Contributor to sound recording, Horatio's Drive, Legacy (New York, NY), 2003.

ADAPTATIONS:

The End of the Road was adapted for an audio cassette read by the author, Free Flight Productions, 1985, and Bantam Audio, 1990; As Far as You Can Go without a Passport was adapted for an audio cassette read by the author, Bantam Audio, 1989; Small Comforts was adapted for an audio cassette read by the author, Bantam Audio, 1989; The Big Garage on Clearshot: Growing Up, Growing Old, and Going Fishing at the End of the Road was adapted for an audio cassette read by the author, Bantam Audio, 1992; The Free Fall of Webster Cummings was adapted for an audio cassette read by the author, Nova Audio Books (Grand Haven, MI), 1995; Williwaw! was adapted for an audio cassette read by the author, Listening Library, 2000; Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier was adapted for an audio cassette read by the author, Listening Library, 2004.

SIDELIGHTS:

Thomas Edward Bodett, creator of essays, radio commentaries, anecdotal sketches, and novels, began his career in 1984 in a manner as quirky and original as the material he writes—he wrote a short essay on how quitting smoking could become a hobby, and it was published in the Anchorage Daily News. He soon began reading his essays for a local public radio station and later for National Public Radio's daily program All Things Considered. A publisher asked him to turn his radio commentaries into a book, and Bodett had a new career that has resulted in books and audiobooks, a teleplay based on one of those books, and numerous contributions to magazines and television. The majority of Bodett's work centers around daily life in smalltown Alaska and elsewhere and the absurdities that happen there, and his folksy style has earned him comparisons with another contemporary storyteller of rural tales, Garrison Keillor. Bodett, who hails from the Midwest, says the best stylistic advice he ever received was from a college professor who "encouraged me to just write the way I talk."

Bodett's first collection of personal thoughts and anecdotes, As Far As You Can Go without a Passport: The View from the End of the Road, is filled with such frustrations of daily life as compulsive supermarket buying and junk mail. Yet, Bodett tackles serious subjects too, such as his observations on his wife's pregnancy. Bodett's writing style won applause from critics; a Publishers Weekly critic found that he "ponders the depths and trivia of life with a wisdom that belies his 30 years," and Library Journal reviewer A.J. Anderson stated that he "writes with honesty and good humor." Not long after this book appeared, Bodett embarked on yet another career—spokesman for the Motel 6 hotel chain. Since 1985, Bodett's welcoming Midwest drawl has been heard on over 300 advertising spots. However, Bodett continued to pursue writing his homespun yarns, and two years later he came out with another collection, Small Comforts: More Comments and Comic Pieces. Bodett's sentimental observations in this collection led a Publishers Weekly critic to call him "genuinely touching."

Bodett's next work, The End of the Road, assembles fairly short pieces about life in the fictitious town of End of the Road, Alaska, "a remarkable little vicinity plugged full of familiar people," as Bodet describes it in the book. He introduces a set of offbeat characters who engage in seemingly mundane activities: Ed, "the roughneck road-grade operator" goes bowling with Tamara, the "local vegetarian activist," who has been seen feuding with a stray cat; Mayor Richard Weekly, who cannot stand pickled herring but must judge the pickled herring contest; Doug McDoogan, who wins a salmon throw that consists of "contestants pair[ing] off and throw[ing] a dead fish back and forth until they can't stand it anymore." The book's first sketch introduces most of the memorable denizens of End of the Road, and the ensuing sketches see these characters develop and change in some unexpected ways. "The book just chats away," wrote Library Journal contributor Anderson, "like a garrulous friend. … And the chatter is good, full of news, gossip, and pleasant humor." A Kirkus Reviews critic found Bodett to be "sometimes acerbic and farcical, sometimes sentimental and silly, but almost always entertaining."

Bodett revisits End of the Road, Alaska, in The Big Garage on Clearshot: Growing Up, Growing Old, and Going Fishing at the End of the Road. In the new collection, Bodett makes the claim that End of the Road "gets more than its fair share of novel individuals," and then proceeds to pick up the threads of the lives of its inhabitants to spin out new tales. This time his stories share the common theme of love. End of the Roaders grow up and grow old, but most importantly, they carry on courtships and first romances and learn to accept situations they do not love for the sake of those people they do love. Though a Kirkus Reviews critic calls The Big Garage on Clearshot a "pleasant, inoffensive collection—full of … good will and optimism," Anderson, writing in Library Journal, found that it does not stand up to the End of the Road, calling it "strictly for fans."

For his next book, Bodett tried something new—a novel. Not so new are the characters. Bodett intermingles some End of the Roaders with new characters from the lower forty-eight states. The action in The Free Fall of Webster Cummings ranges throughout the United States. In Seattle, a homeless amnesiac searches for his past; in Ohio, a retired couple set out in a new RV to visit the children who do not want to see them; and in New Hampshire, Bostonian Webster Cummings gets sucked out of an airplane window and lands on a ski slope without a scratch. Cummings's near-death experience leads him to search for his biological parents, a quest that will bring together the lives of the many characters who populate the novel, people who will, wrote a reviewer in Kirkus Reviews, "break your heart." The critic found this book to be "a flawed but often moving first novel." Sybil Steinberg, writing for Publishers Weekly, likened The Freefall of Webster Cummings to Bodett's earlier works: "He knows how to spin a yarn … raise a chuckle, and will leave readers in good humor, with some insights gained."

With his 1997 title, America's Historic Trails with Tom Bodett, the author adapted episodes from his Travel Channel show for book format. Among the trails included in this work are the Yukon Gold Rush Trail, New York's Old Post Road, and the Great Wagon Road and Wilderness Road from Philadelphia to Louisville. Geared for travelers who want to blend fun and some education, the book and the tapes from the series are "informative and fun," according to Julia Stump, writing in Library Journal.

After more than two decades of living in Alaska, Bodett left that state for Vermont. As he noted on his author's Web site: "Thinking it would be warmer in Vermont because it is further south, I now live there with my family. Unless I'm deluded, if I put an empty pickle jar to my ear I can hear the waters of Kachemak Bay all the way from Vermont." In 1999, Bodett also made a change in his writing focus. With Williwaw!, he penned his first juvenile title, an attempt, as he noted on his Web site, "to show other young people that the simple day to day business of being alive can be an incredible adventure in a place like Alaska." In this novel, two siblings, September and her brother Ivan, are left on their own while their father goes fishing for two weeks. Alone in their Alaska cabin, the two quickly end up in trouble. When they inadvertently ruin their radio—their only means of communication with the outside world—they decide they have to get it fixed before their father returns. To do so they must cross a cove by boat. In the process they run into one of the violent storms, or williwaws, that earlier killed their mother. A Publishers Weekly contributor thought this was a "moralistic tale." Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido noted that "the weather's majesty and power are convincing, and the sister and brother are appealing characters." Reviewing the audiobook version read by Bodett, School Library Journal contributor Todd Dunkelberg called it "a good adventure story," despite some "predictable" elements.

Bodett provides more juvenile entertainment with his 2004 title, Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier: A Novel in Stories. Here Bodett gathers fifteen tales of teenage Norman, detailing his adventures and misadventures as he grows up in a small Alaskan town. This novel for young readers earned critical praise from many quarters. Paula Rohrlick, reviewing the title in Kliatt, found it to be a "funny and beautifully written novel." Likewise, a Kirkus Reviews critic commended the "lively, folksy storytelling laced with poignancy and wisdom," while Vicki Reutter, writing in School Library Journal, thought Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier was both a "well-paced story [and] a heartfelt read." In a similar vein, Todd Morning, writing in Booklist, called the same work "a well-drawn, gentle portrait," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded: "Readers will enjoy the ride."

Bodett once told CA: "I was raised in Sturgis, Michigan, and attended Michigan State University for a short time, studying English literature and creative writing, until the lure of the times, the West, and the open road brought me to Oregon. I worked in the forests of Oregon, logging and planting trees, until I was severely injured in an electrical accident in May of 1975.

"After recovering from near-fatal burns, I drove a taxicab in Lansing, Michigan, until I was able to travel again. I returned to Oregon in 1976, then proceeded to Alaska to see what was here. I started a housebuilding business in 1978 and enjoyed a successful contracting career until 1985. In 1984 I began writing short, humorous commentary for the Homer public radio station. Some of those commentaries found their way to National Public Radio's ‘All Things Considered,’ and I attracted national attention.

"I have enjoyed very rapid recognition for my work, and it continues to baffle me. I consider myself a normal person with a normal life, and I write, normally, about typical things. I assume my audience is made up of very normal people. My homely voiced delivery of commentary on National Public Radio landed me an advertising contract with the Motel 6 chain in the fall of 1986, and now I record radio commercials which are aired nationally."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


BOOKS


Bodett, Tom, The End of the Road, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.

Bodett, Tom, The Big Garage on Clearshot: Growing Up, Growing Old, and Going Fishing at the End of the Road, Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.

PERIODICALS


Advertising Age, June 15, 1992, Christy Fisher, "Bodett—or His Voice—Makes TV Ad Debut," p. 3.

Alaska, January, 1991, Joan Brown, review of The Big Garage on Clearshot: Growing Up, Growing Old, and Going Fishing at the End of the Road, p. 52.

Atlanta Journal & Constitution, November 5, 1989, review of The End of the Road, p. L10.

Booklist, January 1, 1988, review of Small Comforts: More Comments and Comic Pieces, p. 731; September 1, 1989, review of The End of the Road, p. 2; March 1, 1996, Ray Olson, review of The Free Fall of Webster Cummings, p. 1075; April 1, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Williwaw!, p. 1412; November 1, 2000, Jean Hatfield, review of Williwaw! (audiobook), p. 558; December 1, 2004, Todd Morning, review of Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier: A Novel in Stories, p. 646; March 15, 2005, Lolly Gepson, review of Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier (audiobook), p. 1313.

English Journal, April, 1995, Karen Fatual Forgette, review of The Big Garage on Clearshot, p. 82.

Fortune, June 20, 1988, Terence P. Pare, "What's My Line?," p. 114.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1989, review of The End of the Road, pp. 1182-1183; August 15, 1990, review of The Big Garage on Clearshot, pp. 1105-1106; February 15, 1996, review of The Free Fall of Webster Cummings, p. 241; November 1, 2004, review of Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier, p. 1043.

Kliatt, May, 2005, Nola Theiss, review of Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier (audiobook), p. 59; November, 2004, Paula Rohrlick, review of Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier, p. 6.

Library Journal, February 1, 1986, A.J. Anderson, review of As Far As You Can Go without a Passport: The View from the End of the Road, p. 79; September 15, 1989, A.J. Anderson, review of The End of the Road, p. 125; September 1, 1990, A.J. Anderson, review of The Big Garage on Clearshot, p. 253; March 15, 1996, review of The Free Fall of Webster Cummings, p. 94; November 15, 1997, Julia Stump, review of America's Historic Trails with Tom Bodett, p. 87.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 25, 1987, review of Small Comforts: More Comments and Comic Pieces.

New York Times Book Review, October 21, 1990, Bill Franzen, review of The Big Garage on Clearshot, p. 25.

People, November 25, 1985, Campbell Geeslin, review of As Far As You Can Go without a Passport, p. 22; August 1, 1988, Ken Gross, "Alaska's Tom Bodett Is the Folksy Voice of Motel 6, but for Him There's No Place Like Homer," pp. 60-62; December 1, 1989, David Hiltbrand, review of The End of the Road, p. 45.

Publishers Weekly, September 20, 1985, review of As Far As You Can Go without a Passport, p. 94; August 21, 1987, review of Small Comforts, p. 60; August 25, 1989, review of The End of the Road, p. 50; August 17, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Big Garage on Clearshot, p. 52; April 6, 1992, review of Growing Up, Growing Old, and Going Fishing at the End of the Road (audiobook), p. 29; February 26, 1996, review of The Free Fall of Webster Cummings, p. 82; March 1, 1999, review of Williwaw!, p. 69; October 23, 2000, review of Williwaw!, p. 7B; January 3, 2005, review of Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier, p. 56.

Redbook, November, 1989, Dawn Raffel, "We'll Leave the Light on for Ya," p. 60.

School Library Journal, October, 2000, Todd Dunkelberg, review of Williwaw!, p. 97; May, 2004, Vicki Reutter, review of Williwaw! (audiobook), p. 63; December, 2004, Vicki Reutter, review of Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier, p. 140; March, 2005, Larry Cooperman, review of Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier (audiobook), p. 88.

ONLINE


Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (April 17, 2006), "Tom Bodett."

Motel 6 Web site,http://www.motel6.com/ (April 17, 2006), "About Tom Bodett."

Tom Bodett Home Page,http://www.bodett.com (April 17, 2006).

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