Bodo

John Bennett, Author Smith $19 (0p) ISBN 978-1-882986-17-0
Although only six in 1945, the German boy Bodo Steiner did not survive the war unscathed. Russians raped-and presumably killed-his mother, sister and grandmother, and while Bodo managed to escape, it was not before being badly beaten. The incident takes up few enough lines in Bennett's disturbing story of one man's dissolution, but it is the psychological linchpin. Adopted by a distracted American soldier and his introverted German wife, Bodo moves to Texas and eventually settles into an unexceptional and unexceptionable career of gas station attendant. Then Bodo decides to move on to New Orleans and San Francisco, each of which exerts its own untsettling pull on the young man's damaged psyche until, after too much of the proverbial drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll, Bodo becomes something of a sacred fool. Bennett's writing is fluid and often movingly perceptive: ``She begins moving against him with a tenderness that has no place to go now that they've taken her baby from her and Terrance has entered another world, pulling a child's wagon through the streets of Mobile, selling firewood by the bundle to the poor.'' As Bodo's life disintegrates so, to some extent, does Bennett's narrative. Stoned-out hippies make tedious, banal philosophers, and Bodo's San Francisco life (particularly his mantra, ``Sun, Fun and Kids'') is so annoying that it threatens to undermine an otherwise intriguing tale. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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