From Publishers Weekly
The erstwhile host of The Dick Cavett Show unburdens himself in this collection of rambling though piquant essays from his New York Times online column. It' s an eclectic and sometimes surprising lineup: on- and off-set celebrity anecdotes; meditations on the art of the comic insult; jaundiced assessments of the 2008 presidential contenders; not one but two apologias for radio DJ Don Imus; scenes from a Nebraska boyhood, with minor hooliganism and encounters with a movie-house pervert. Cavett occasionally lets his affable host' s persona slip to voice idiosyncratic passions, in his plea to ban fat actors from TV commercials, for example, and his snipes at public figures for language mistakes and mispronunciations (he reviles George W. Bush almost as much for saying nucular as for starting the Iraq War). Some pieces misfire, especially when Cavett overuses transcripts from his shows; even the celebrated trash talk showdown between guests Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer lies flat on the printed page. But in his beguiling profiles of celebrities--the deft magician Slydini; the humbled gossip columnist Walter Winchell; an aging John Wayne, who reveals an unheralded appreciation for Noël Coward plays--Cavett proves himself a solid writer as well as a talker.
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Cavett’s talk shows on ABC and later PBS were the perfect format for a former comedy writer who was also the son of English teachers. He was erudite and amusing and a great conversation partner to an array of guests, from Katharine Hepburn and Richard Burton to William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer. Drawing on his recollections from show business as well as his years growing up in Nebraska, Cavett offers a collection of his columns for the online New York Times. He revels in misuses and mispronunciations of words by the famous and those who should know better, comments on both political silliness and serious issues, and talks about political celebrities such as Sarah Palin and Rod Blagojevich. He recalls friendships with famously taciturn celebrities Johnny Carson and Bobby Fischer, testifying on behalf of John Lennon, sparring with Bette Davis, and hosting John Updike and John Cheever on the same show. Cavett is also personally revealing, recounting his bouts with depression, ego-bruising encounters with famous comedians, and career ups and downs. An enormously amusing and well-written collection. --Vanessa Bush