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Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  3,946 ratings  ·  454 reviews
Bill Clegg had a thriving business as a literary agent, a supportive partner, trusting colleagues, and loving friends when he walked away from his world and embarked on a two-month crack binge. He had been released from rehab nine months earlier, and his relapse would cost him his home, his money, his career, and very nearly his life.

What is it that leads an exceptional yo
Hardcover, 222 pages
Published June 7th 2010 by Little Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2010)
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Jessica.Sw My thought was that the whole part about him being followed was just caused by his drug-induced paranoia.

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Debbie "DJ"
Feb 24, 2016 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
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 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 04, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Sep 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This was dreadful! Not the writing, which was effective and quite good, but the picture it painted. A dizzying memoir of the two-month crack binge that defined rock bottom for a once rising star, this was depressing, paranoid confusion that was palpable. Deeply sad, my heart broke for “Noah,” and I was disappointed to not hear him mentioned in the acknowledgements...though it’s interesting to note that my disappointment is squarely based on the author’s depiction of him.

This is just a very sad
Julie Ehlers
May 26, 2013 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 rated it it was ok
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
Amy Bruestle
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks

This is my first Audio-book that I have listened to without also following along in an actual book. I don't really know how I feel about it. But I'm going to do my best to explain.

First off, this book was actually quite difficult for me to finish. Multiple times I found myself debating whether to just stop listening and start a different book instead. Why, you ask? Well, because I'm a recovering addict myself. Currently I have 15 days short of 2 and a half years clean and sober. Althou
Dec 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 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 rated it really liked it
"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 rated it really liked it
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 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

I've always been bizarrely fascinated in the mythos of the junkie. I have an odd love of addicts, alcoholics, abusers, I guess that's why I keep coming back to such authors as Burroughs, Bukowski, Welsh, or Thompson. They bring a sense of danger that brings you out of the mundanity of life, but also a sense of vulnerability that you have to peel back in order to see. But then there's such authors, like Philip K. Dick or the author of this book, Bill Clegg, who seek to break the m
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
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
excellent choice for audiobook. not too long and short, accessible chapters. honest, gritty, interesting.
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, addiction, memoir
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 rated it it was amazing
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
P.J. Tiberio
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I read a comment on how he came off as egotistical and selfish and that he had a lot of work to do. What I would say to that is this books purpose was to portray the mind of an active addict. Addiction is riddled with arrogance, self-preservation, control and selfishness. When someone is actively suffering from an addiction these are the qualities that they display.

I found his narrative to be full of truth and honesty. He showed the brutal desperation from which addi
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 M
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 rated it really liked it
An emotionally hard read for me.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Hmmm. I'm trying to figure out why this book didn't quite do it for me. It had elements that I usually like in a memoir: addiction, change & redemption, a life different than mine. But, for some reason, I just had a hard time truly empathizing with the author. Which is strange. If anything, I'm over-empathetic, always giving people the benefit of the doubt to the point of gullibility. I ended up empathizing with Clegg's boyfriend more than I did with Clegg himself. Maybe it's because of the auth ...more
Adam Dunn
May 10, 2012 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
Sep 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
George K. Ilsley
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, gay, addiction
Like many addiction memoirs, this one is impossible to put down. Beautifully written. It is hard to imagine how much this guy's friends went through before he found his way back. The episodic structure jumped around, but it is a miracle he could remember anything. One complaint is that he was very coy about sex, especially compared to the lengthy, repetitive and detailed descriptions of drug use. Often sex is described in a couple words, such as "we have sex" and then another hundred words on th ...more
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Bill Clegg is a literary agent in New York. He is the author of the novel Did You Ever Have A Family and the 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.

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“It is never said, but it is clear that it is over, that our lives, bound together for so long, will now be lived apart. Everything that we were, the whole magical, horrible opera, is now over. We are only a table apart but we’re in different worlds. He seems less like a person and more like a figment from a dream I once had, some nocturnal wonder I cannot revive after sleep, only remember.” 0 likes
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