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Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  3,091 Ratings  ·  393 Reviews
What makes one of the most gifted, charismatic and successful literary agents in New York fall into full-blown crack-addiction: a collapse that would cost him his business, his home, many of his friends and - very nearly - his life?

In his utterly compulsive narrative, Bill Clegg leads us through the grimiest back-rooms of Manhattan's underbelly, through scenes of blank-eye
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 7th 2012 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2010)
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Debbie "DJ"
Feb 24, 2016 Debbie "DJ" rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heavy stuff, and holy f***!

Okay, will try to give this a proper review. This is one hell of a ride on the dark side of crack cocaine addiction. While I usually like my addiction memoirs with a heavy heaping of recovery, this focused mostly on the addiction itself. Sometimes though, the story itself can be so powerful it needs to be told. This is one mans journey from his first wonderful high to the brink of death. What I loved the most was Cleggs writing, and it's interesting to know that Clegg
Rebecca Foster
Jun 21, 2012 Rebecca Foster rated it it was amazing
One of the finest memoirs I’ve come across (and I read a heck of a lot of them). To be great, a memoir has to plunk you right in the middle of a set of experiences that might be diametrically opposed to your own and make it all so real that you feel you are living it. Through this book I followed literary agent Bill Clegg on dozens of taxi rides between generic hotel rooms and bar toilets and New York City offices and apartments; together we smoked innumerable crack pipes and guzzled dozens of b ...more
Glenn Sumi
Jul 08, 2014 Glenn Sumi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
Bill Clegg had it all: a glamorous, prestigious job as a literary agent; a handsome and caring indie filmmaker boyfriend; a gorgeous Manhattan apartment; a glittering social life; J. Crew catalogue model good looks...

But he risked throwing it all away – along with tens of thousands of dollars – because of his addiction to crack cocaine, a downward spiral he chronicles with frank honesty in the harrowing, hard-to-put-down memoir Portrait Of An Addict As A Young Man.

Clegg interweaves tales of his
Tayari Jones
This book was pretty engaging. There is a train-wrecky appeal and Clegg is pretty good with phrase. (I especially liked it when he described a woman's accent as "tricky.")

I would have liked it better if he had really reflected on the way his race/class kept him out of jail. While I was really fascinated by the idea that there are secret crack addicts everywhere, Clegg could have been omre reflective about the fact that addicts who can't check into Manhattan hotels to get high and order vodka for
Julie Ehlers
May 26, 2013 Julie Ehlers rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
This is the story of a privileged white dude who apparently became more addicted to crack than anyone has ever been addicted to crack ever before. He blames this on his childhood, which, although not perfect, is certainly no worse than the childhoods of countless people who have never smoked crack even once. He treats all his friends and loved ones shockingly poorly because all he cares about is crack, but they stay loyal to him anyway, I guess because they're all codependent? In a way, this boo ...more
Wendy S.
Jun 02, 2010 Wendy S. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sure I read it (hence two stars), and I read it quickly because 1) I'm addicted to books about screw ups, AND 2) I'm constantly looking for something that will make me feel differently about this particular disease. This "memoir" makes me sick. I don't care about Bill Clegg's self-indulgent childhood issues. In fact, they bore me. He comes across as an insecure, egotistical name-dropper who clearly has a long way to go if in fact he is still "recovering." Much like all books about addiction, my ...more
Dec 23, 2010 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit that I am a sucker for stories about addiction. You could even say I am addicted to them. (groan!) But now I know what I want for my last "meal" ----and it is a nice chunk of crack. Really, it sounds like something that everyone should experience once in a lifetime but can't for obvious reasons. To paraphrase the poet, it sounds like . . ." all we know of heaven and all we need to know of hell. . "

Bill Clegg is a literary agent in NYC and he was living the dream. He appears on his book
Jan 30, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
Harrowing, with a can't-look-away-oh-god-I-want-to-look-away quality that fairly pulls the reader through the pages. I know crack addicts but haven't read any accounts of the addiction from the inside, and I found Clegg to be adept at giving a sense of what serious substance abuse must be like for the user. The rampant paranoia, the way the drug extends and collapses time, the peaks of the highs versus the plunges into the blackest of lows—he nails all of this with an unflinching eye, and withou ...more
Jan 23, 2011 Brittany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It doesn't feel the least bit wrong in those first seconds after exhaling the familiar smoke, no more than a reunion with an old friend, a returning to the most incredible conversation I've ever had, one that got interrupted seven months ago and, now that it's started up again, hasn't skipped a beat. But it's more than just a conversation, it's the best sex. The most delicious meal, the most engrossing book-it's like returning to all of these at once, coming home, and the primary feeling I have ...more
Apr 02, 2010 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read the sentence, "At the very center of things and at the farthest edge," I was hooked. How many of us have felt this way? This isn't your typical "how I overcame my drug addiction memoir." Bill Clegg explains in detail his descent into crack madness and his overwhelming guilt in letting his family, friends and basically, everyone he knows down. Except, unlike most, he is addicted to crack and doesn't care about making amends or the consequences or losing his life. It doesn't matter. On ...more
Mar 04, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bill Clegg had it all and he lost it to Crack. He takes you directly inside the frightening mind of an addict on a two-month bender. He makes the power of cravings, the fog of paranoia, the disintegration of reason, the incessant whispers of suicide, and the glow of intoxication palpable. I found myself wanting to reach into the book and block his inevitable fall. The author finally enters rehab and appears to begin again but what comes next is unclear, which is a true reflection of anyone’s rec ...more
Nov 15, 2012 christa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first time Bill Clegg tries smoking crack he’s in an apartment in New York City with an upstanding citizen from his hometown, a handsome silver-haired lawyer who is older than even his father. And, whoa, is this a good time. Clegg describes it as a new surge of energy, a perfect oblivion, a kind of peace, kinetic, sexual and euphoric, a hurricane, a warm tender caress.

The naughty, drug fueled, paranoia and urination fascination memoir Portrait of a Young Man as an Addict is the literary agen
Reading Bill Clegg's memoir on his crack-smoking days (or rather, months) is like watching a train crash; you can't stop it from happening, it's causing pain and destruction to everyone in its path and there is a great potential for fatalities. Thankfully, in Bill Clegg's case we know it all turns out alright because we got to enjoy his first novel Did You Ever Have a Family published earlier this year. But during some of his crack binges, so vividly and brilliantly described, written almost lik ...more
Aug 28, 2010 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read an excerpt from this drug-addiction memoir in New York Magazine earlier this summer. While I've had my fill of drug-addiction memoirs (and memoirs about nervous breakdowns, in case you care) and thus find any craving of such subject matter more than quenched, I found myself totally enthralled by the text, and in particular, Bill Clegg's voice. Plus, the guy was a wildly successful literary agent, an insider, whose decline was marked by an addiction to crack. I wanted more. I put my ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Michelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2012, addiction
I knew about Bill Clegg as a high powered literary agent (Nicole Krauss and Diane Keaton are two of his many notable clients; Keaton dedicated her own memoirs to him) before I knew of him as a crack addict. Indeed in this memoir he is both. He actually has a follow-up coming out this month and a review of it is what prompted me to read this first... I'd long since meant to pick it up but hadn't yet. In any case, this is a harrowing, paranoid tale of a multi-month bender. I truly cannot comprehen ...more
Jan 28, 2011 Jeannie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who can handle it
Shelves: i-own
Reading this book was like being on a runaway train that you know is going to crash. Like seeing a tornado heading your way and not being able to get out of its path. His writing was so deep it had my mind on overdrive.

I got sucked into his story from the very first chapter. I was headed down this path at one time so I can understand the allure of crack, the rush of that first hit, the need to chase it, the horrible craving and searching for more ,not caring how I looked or acted, not caring who
Sep 04, 2015 Gracey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well... basically, this book made me feel like an asshole because I just couldn't muster up much sympathy for the author. The man has what seems like the perfect life in NYC; in love, great fucking apartment, great fucking job, great fucking friends and then becomes a crack addict. And why did he become a crack addict? I think because his Dad was hard on him? Not just hard, that's not fair; he was mentally and emotionally abusive to the author and the whole family.

But, still. I really couldn't i
Stellar writing, excellent editing; deserves 5 stars.
This memoir is a roller coaster ride the reader takes with Bill Clegg as he remembers episodes pursuing various intoxicating experiences. An unflinching account- Clegg does not spare himself as he tells of the road he traveled with his addiction. This is not easy reading, the highs and desperate lows are so vivid.
Some call this a cautionary tale. I don't know. I think some would read the descriptions and say, 'I'd like to feel high like that
Disappointing. Clegg was/is a star literary agent but he is not a writer. Or a likeable narrator. A repetitive, self-aggrandizing tale without insight --- a bit of James-Frey-syndrome at work here with some of these detailed episodes he recalls years later. Too bad that this book was published because of Clegg's connections in publishing --- while others' stories of overcoming their addictions will never find an outlet.
Emily Mack
When it feels like the end of the world, it never is.

This book scared the shit out of me. Clegg goes into such raw and honest detail about his accounts with crack cocaine and alcohol addiction that I feel like this should be required reading for young teenagers. Looking forward to reading his other memoir.
Dante Love Fisher
Jul 21, 2016 Dante Love Fisher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An emotionally hard read for me.
Adam Dunn
May 10, 2012 Adam Dunn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: glbt
When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Many things came to me while reading this book and I had to stop reading several times to just sit and think. The main one is reflected in the quote above, how did he go through this again? How was he able to get past the shame and guilt of this time in his life to be able to write it down and then to be able to share it with others? I spent a lot of the book marvelling at that.

"Nothing but death can keep me from it"
Brielle Charmasson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 14, 2011 A rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
A grippingly horrifying and unrepentantly sexy memoir of addiction. Clegg seems/seemed like a truly horrible human being with absolutely no regard for those who care anything about him; yet reading many parts of this book had me aching to live his Glamorous Life ("It ain't much") of flashy literary parties, hot yuppie boyfriends, and bleary-beautiful late nights in $500/night boutique hotels. Indeed, I REALLY appreciated that he didn't turn this into a tale of repentance, recovery, treacly senti ...more
Feb 27, 2016 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a different take on following the experiences of a well-heeled, young literary agent tumbling down the crack addict rabbit hole. The play-by-play accounts with intermezzo visits to his youth (not nostalgic, more distant and analytical described In A weird 3rd person echo) make this fascinating for its lucidity and absolute stupidity-made-credible. Not a pleasure to read, but oddly tantalising to satisfy any voyeur cravings.
Dec 02, 2015 Jo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a rating of how much I like this book, not the book itself. Clegg is a great writer, but I couldn't stand the company of his sexy addiction. This book feels like a fun AA meeting in the big church hall where everyone talks about how they used to party while the friends and relatives in Al Anon sit upstairs in a tiny depressing room talking about how the narcissism of addicts ruined their lives.
Matthew Gallaway
Harrowing account of an addiction to crack cocaine, written in sparse but beautiful language. For me it raised interesting and important questions about the obsessive nature of (many) gay men trying to come to terms with their attraction to other men in a society still reeling from AIDS and homophobia.
May 19, 2017 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Damn!! This book was intense!! I read it in a day. I definitely recommend this book to people interested in addiction memoirs, or who want to remind themselves "I could be doing worse." Maybe I will bump it up to 4 stars but I have to think about it.

SO much crack in this book. And vodka!! I really could not believe it was possible for a human being to consume so much crack and vodka.

I thought it was interesting and appropriate to parallel his crack addiction with his childhood struggles with ur
Jazmine Green
Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man is a memoir by Bill Clegg. Bill is the Owner of a thriving business in New York, a book-publishing agency. However, as he gets sucked deeper into addiction his business begins to fall a part, his long time relationship with his boyfriend, Noah, crumbles and the rest of his life gets shattered to pieces. This memoir was very well written in my opinion, therefore making it interesting to read. However, I do feel that it was a bit confusing at times and I found ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Andre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are few books I can honestly describe as absorbing, haunting, or engulfing; books whose clean, paranoid prose flies with bullet trajectory towards inevitable ruin, self-destruction, and also self-regeneration; books who gesture the dissonant rhythm of a doomed soul that must be responsible for their actions, yet prudent about their tortured origins -- I can't like or dislike Bill Clegg. His is a story of turbulence from birth spread out through his youth and spread-eagled into the angelic, ...more
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Bill Clegg is a literary agent in New York and the author of the bestselling memoirs Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man and Ninety Days.

He has written for the New York Times, Lapham’s Quarterly, New York magazine, The Guardian, and Harper’s Bazaar.
More about Bill Clegg...

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