Leigh Hunt once said, ""If you ever have to support a flagging conversation, introduce the subject of eating."" Readers of this delightful compilation of offbeat facts, colorful anecdotes, frequently hilarious quotations and wry observations need never face the embarrassment of ""a flagging conversation."" Bryan has supplied them with a wealth of surefire conversation resuscitators. And Bryan (Merry Gentlemen (and One Lady) has divided his material into such headings as ""AbsentMindedness,"" ""Names for Pets,"" ""Similes from the Boondocks,"" ""Ugliness"" and ""The Very Rich."" There isn't a dud among them. Under ""Put-Downs,"" for example, there is Ethel Barrymore's reminiscence about her brother John: ""One of the Hollywood moguls was screaming at my brother. . .and shaking his finger in his face. Jack said, 'Put that finger down! I remember when it had a thimble on it.'"" Under ""Miscellaneous,"" Bryan reveals, ""Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister, could turn her ears inside out by muscular control, without touching them."" As captivating as Bryan's research and his own opinions are, he does occasionally err. He repeats the old chestnut about W.C. Fields' having bank accounts all over the world, although Fields' son has recently discredited the story. Too, Bryan attributes the remark, ""Tom Dewey looks like the groom on the wedding cake,"" to Dorothy Parker when, in fact, it was Alice Roosevelt Longworth who said it. For the most part, however, he is a reliable and sprightly guide to the bizarre, the bawdy and the belly-busting. Recommended for dipping into whatever spirits need a boost. Good gift material, too.