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A Memoir that becomes annoying rather than empathetic

  • Aug 14, 2010
  • by
It can be a struggle to make it through this memoir PORTRAIT OF AN ADDICT AS A YOUNG MAN. Bill Clegg's life situation and changes due to his extraordinary utter addiction to smoking crack could have been developed into a keener understanding of why addiction is such a devastating disease, but instead Clegg seems more interested in sharing episode after endless episode of becoming blotto on his drug of choice, moments that after a while become fast page turners because he has just taken us there countless times before. Yes, his 'flashbacks' to his youth as an abused child because of a genitourinary/psychological problem voiding and its sequelae and his coping with the family introduction to his sexual proclivity are dotted here and there. His relationships to both his life partner Noah and to his semi-sequestered encounters of a physical nature are no match for his emphasis on his dependence on his contacts and suppliers and his wooing cabdrivers et al to 'hang out' and share getting high.

Clegg is a literary agent in New York and as such must read a lot of novels and other memoir-based books. One thing sets him apart: he writes in brief paragraphs separated on the page by considerable space, and that may be a visual means of helping the reader to understand the staccato outbursts of thought and words that come from an addict's mouth and mind. But in the end, this is yet another addict memoir that adds little to the shelves of similar books. The pity is that it would seem Clegg had an advantage in knowing how to deliver this information in a better way. Most people come to this book wanting to like the story, wanting to empathize with Bill Clegg and his journey through purgatory, but he simply loses us in the fall. Grady Harp, August 10

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review by . August 16, 2010
Clegg, Bill. "Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir", Little, Brown and Company, 2010.    Quite a Story    Amos Lassen    Bill Clegg was a rising name in the publishing industry but he messed up his life during a bender. Clegg was a literary agent with William Morris Endeavor who went on a two-month crack binge in which he threw it all away. He smoked away his partnership in the agency, his $70,000 bank account, 40 pounds of his …
review by . July 16, 2010
I had heard some wonderful things about this book and, of course, because I am a fan of addiction/recovery books I was really looking forward to reading this one.    Unfortunately, for some reason this book just did not touch me all that much.    Although, of course, I admire the author for being brave enough to write his story, somehow the whole story felt "staged somehow". While the author explains his childhood - interlaced with present day actions that …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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A rising publishing industry star trashes his life during a bender in this intense but callow confessional. Clegg, a literary agent with William Morris Endeavor, tells the story of a two-month crack binge in which he smoked away his literary agency partnership, his $70,000 bank account, 40 pounds (he's forever cutting new holes in his belt to cinch it to his wasting frame), and his relationship with his devoted long-suffering boyfriend. There's crazed excess and tawdry sex, but also a sharply etched portrait of the addict's mindset: the veering between paranoia and a compulsive sociability with the random crackheads he picks up to party with; the shrinkage of the planning horizon to the search for the next hit; the bliss of the high (the warmest, most tender caress... then, as it recedes, the coldest hand); the bender's unstoppable acceleration until, like a cartoon character running off a cliff, it has nothing left to sustain it. The author's efforts to impart psychological depth to his addiction—he writes of wan collegiate debauches and a childhood complex about urinating—are less convincing; it's clear that the binge will end when his money runs out. Though richly rendered, Clegg's crack odyssey feels like an epic bout of self-indulgence.(June 14)
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ISBN-10: 0316054674
ISBN-13: 978-0316054676
Author: Bill Clegg
Genre: Health, Mind & Body
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
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