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Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic…
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Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks

by Dick Cavett

Other authors: Jimmy Fallon (Foreword)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Disappointing. Like your show, but it doesn't seem to translate to the page. ( )
  c_why | Jan 12, 2016 |
I always loved listening to Dick Cavett in TV. He conducted a casual but informative interview in his time. This book is about celebrities he has known. I heard his voice thoughout, wistful and humorous. ( )
  gbelik | Apr 17, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book of essays and memories from comic writer and talk show host, Dick Cavett, was fun. It was interesting and insightful, too. Cavett presents a large number of brief (2 to 3 page) memories or essays on his own youthful hijinks growing up in Nebraska and the magic moments he's experienced with big names. I admit that many of those names were before my time but that made the book even more enjoyable, for me.

The best part of the book is the stories he tells. Of how Marlene Dietrich called him every day at the same time for awhile. Of learning that Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame, was still alive and so Cavett visited Laurel in his apartment. Laurel's number was in the phone book, amazingly. Stories about other greats, such as Groucho Marx, abound.

I wanted to read this entertaining book in big gulps but, in the end, I took my time and savored it. What a delight!! Highly recommended!! ( )
  lindapanzo | Dec 11, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
One of the more interesting/frustrating things about any collection is how the editor/collector decides to present the items in that collection. The basic approach (one any editor will tell you is the key to success) is to start and end with strong pieces. The quality at the beginning draws people into the collection; the quality at the end leaves a good taste in their mouths.

There are exceptions to that rule. Let's skip the "the editor doesn't know what they are doing and has put together, higgledy-piggledy, a bunch of stuff" approach and talk about other, legitimate, approaches.

One that drives me absolutely crazy is that used by "The Greatest American..." collections (and others). In their case, they present the offerings in alphabetical order by the author's last name. While it sometimes works (and while it is incredibly democratic – if ineffective), it generally results in a start-and-stop, uneven presentation of the materials. To me it is one of the worst approaches.

Another very common approach – and one that is very successful if used in the right situation – is to present the pieces in chronological order. The very best examples of this (and I mean best because it worked so effectively) are some of the works of Harlan Ellison – The Glass Teat, The Other Glass Teat, An Edge in My Voice, or Harlan Ellison's Watching. These work because the pieces are meant to have been read in that order. In the case of the Ellison books cited above, they are collections of essays from magazines and newspapers where the pieces tend to build on each other.

So it makes sense that this collection of Dick Cavett's opinion pieces from the New York Times would be presented in chronological order. They were written in a particular order and often reference previous writings. It makes sense, but it proves to be a minor detriment for any of us may be unaware the approach Cavett uses in this body of work. (Remember my comment about starting strong helps draw the reader in?)

I say this because I almost stopped before I got going with this book. The beginning was slow going – two pieces on dreams; in particular the anxiety dreams we all have, in this case, putting Cavett's profession's spin on those anxieties.

Nice little pieces, but they seemed inconsequential, didn't really say anything to me, and were not what I expected to hear. The book blurbs had promised me introductions to "the fascinating characters who have crossed [Cavett's] path" and "piquant commentary on contemporary politics, the indignities of travel, the nature of comedy writing, and the utter improbability of being alive at all." None of that was present in those first pages.

You only have so many pages to make a first impression and, if that impression is wrong, it takes a whole lotta pages to change the reader's mind. So I read seven pages wondering why I cared. And when this was followed by a fascinating little tale about Art Linkletter, followed by one about Arthur Godfrey, I wasn't ready to sit back and say "Ah, this is what I was looking for." There followed a nicely written commentary about the times. Then more pieces that, off and on, met my expectations.

You see, this is a very nice collection. There are definitely fascinating stories about the fascinating characters that Cavett has met. There are also interesting commentaries about politics and life in general. Some are good, some are so-so, some are really good, some are ordinary, and some are extraordinary. But the very slow start meant that it was a while before I realized I was enjoying this book.

Once I got a feel for the flow, I got a feel for the book and, eventually, realized it was a very good book indeed.

If for no other reason, you will want to get this book for the stories of how Cavett's show got started, of writing for Jack Paar, of meeting Stan Laurel, of writing for Johnny Carson, of working with John and Yoko, of writing for...anyone, and for the insights. In other words, there are a lot of really good stories and really good commentary.

I have spent a lot of time focused on the structure of the book – probably one of the worst things to focus on in a review. However, I came so close to walking away from this book because of that structure that I want to convince you to get past it – get past whatever might be holding you back – and go ahead and take the plunge.

And one other thing. This review was based on an advanced reader's edition, so there may have been changes in the order. If so, my apologies. (On the other hand, I can certainly see why they didn't want to make the first story the tale of Art Linkletter not doing so well – that can't be good for business, no matter how good the story is.) ( )
  figre | Oct 20, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"Brief Encounters" by Dick Cavett is one of those cultural epoch records. Cavett, a very smart man with a knack of perceptive interviewing, has made a career of bringing out the best and worst in others. In this series of vignettes, he recounts and recalls the encounters and events of his life to great effect. If you're already a fan, you'll enjoy this reminder of why he's become a fixture. If you aren't familiar with his work, this will give you an idea of the scope of his career and the almost incredible range of his acquaintance. ( )
  BasilBlue | Oct 6, 2014 |
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Fallon, JimmyForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805099778, Hardcover)

Dick Cavett is back, sharing his reflections and reminiscences about Hollywood legends, American cultural icons, and the absurdities of everyday life

In Brief Encounters, the legendary talk show host Dick Cavett introduces us to the fascinating characters who have crossed his path, from James Gandolfini and John Lennon to Mel Brooks and Nora Ephron, enhancing our appreciation of their talent, their personalities, and their place in the pantheon. We tag along as Cavett spends an afternoon with Stan Laurel at his modest apartment in Los Angeles, spars with Muhammad Ali at his training camp, and comes to know a young Steve Jobs—who woos him to be Apple’s first celebrity pitchman. He also offers piquant commentary on contemporary politics, the indignities of travel, the nature of comedy writing, and the utter improbability of being alive at all.

On his talk show, Cavett welcomed the leading figures from film, music, theater, literature, comedy, sports, and politics, and engaged them in conversation that made viewers feel that the discussion was taking place in their own living rooms. Jimmy Fallon, the new host of The Tonight Show, has called him “a legend and an inspiration” and has written a foreword that makes clear the debt that today’s talk show hosts owe to Dick Cavett. Brief Encounters opens the door on how Cavett’s mind works and what it is like to live in his world.

To spend a few minutes, or an hour, or even a whole evening with Dick Cavett is an experience not to be missed, and now there’s no reason to deny yourself. Settle in, and enjoy the conversation!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:48 -0400)

Legendary talk show host Dick Cavett shares his reflections and reminiscences about Hollywood legends, American cultural icons, and the absurdities of everyday life. On his talk show, Cavett welcomed the leading figures from film, music, theater, literature, comedy, and politics, and engaged them in conversation that made viewers feel that the discussion was taking place in their own living rooms. Here he introduces us to the fascinating characters who have crossed his path, from James Gandolfini and John Lennon to Mel Brooks and Nora Ephron, enhancing our appreciation of their talent, their personalities, and their place in the pantheon. We tag along as Cavett spends an afternoon with Stan Laurel at his modest apartment in Los Angeles, spars with Muhammad Ali at his training camp, and comes to know a young Steve Jobs--who woos him to be Apple's first celebrity pitchman. He also offers piquant commentary on contemporary politics, the indignities of travel, the nature of comedy writing, and the utter improbability of being alive at all.--From publisher description.… (more)

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