Ham: Slices of a Life

Sam Harris. S&S/Gallery, $26 (3240) ISBN 978-1-4767-3341-8
In this vividly crafted series of essays about the author’s arduous journey to fame, Harris, the first-season champion of Star Search in 1983, explores his youth in Sand Springs, Okla.; he felt he was “odd and bizarre and deviant,” an unathletic kid whose father, the high school band leader, was embarrassed by but resigned to Harris’s obsession with theater, rather than with more traditional boy pursuits in their dusty, industrial town. Harris was known as “the little white boy with a big soulful voice.” The essays move back and forth in time, recounting the author’s teenage years singing in L.A. clubs after a stint at U.C.L.A.; he also describes securing Bette Midler’s agent, Jerry Blatt, who honed Harris’s full-out, emotive style; and he tells of his struggles as an alcoholic and how he came out as a gay man. “Liver” is the most hilarious piece of this charmingly candid collection, dealing with Harris’s self-subverting pattern of being blinded by what should be rather than what is (“the liver law: if it looks like liver and it smells like liver”); other essays feature painful episodes from Harris’s life, such as the time he was snubbed by his idol, Aretha Franklin, and when he assisted his best friend Liza Minnelli at her disastrous wedding. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013
Release date: 01/14/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4423-6814-9
Paperback - 290 pages - 978-1-4767-3344-9
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