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.