Brief Encounters by Dick Cavett

Those of you who are literate and in tune with the publishing world probably already know that Dick Cavett has been contributing a column to the New York Times for a number of years. As someone who only gets his news from Twitter, I was surprised to discover this fact, while delighted to learn that a number of these (new to me) columns have been assembled in the book Brief Encounters.

I'm officially a member of the David Letterman fan demographic but in my mind there have only really been two talk show hosts - Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett. Erudite while still allowing his guests to lead the conversation, the line that Cavett was able to comfortably walk between respecting old Hollywood (not surprising since he got his start writing for Jack Paar, Jerry Lewis and Carson) and welcoming the love generation's new heroes is something for any talk show host to try to emulate.
The columns collected in this book cover two main subjects: personal memories and insights and celebrity encounters. While there were some enjoyable moments in the former, I was mostly on board for the latter. We get special reminiscences of celebrities who had recently passed, such as Jonathan Winters (in a hilarious column that makes you want to hunt his appearances down on YouTube), James Gandolfini and Eddie Fisher (though his name is merely an excuse to pay tribute to George S. Kaufman).
Lest you think that the book is merely a tribute to long-gone entertainers, well, I suppose it largely is. Some of these are quite moving, such as the Winters tribute or Cavett's memories of schoolmates long gone. But there are also many laugh out loud moments, such as the story of Laurel and Hardy's encounter in front of the Christmas tree. The book slows down in the multiple chapters about Cavett's dreams but they're easy to skip.
It's easy to hear this book in the author's voice while you're reading it, and even easier if you listen to it on CD, since Cavett is the reader. The book's also a great bathroom reader, with most chapters reaching no more than 5 pages. I finished this book in five days and I'm a sloooooow reader, so you might enjoy knocking it off in an evening! A fun, fun book!
 
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