Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man A Memoir PDF/EPUB

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man A Memoir 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 bottles of vodka while letting partners and family members down and spiraling further down into paranoia and sualorEvery structural and stylistic decision works the present tense short paragraphs speech set out in italics occasional flashback chapters including to the childhood shame of an odd urinary condition distanced through third person narration Clegg achieves a perfect balance between his feelings at the time – being out of control and utterly enslaved to his next hit – and the hindsight that allows him to see what a pathetic figure he was becoming The book’s last chapter the last paragraph in particular is just about breathtakingI’ll try not to go overboard with uotes but here are two excellent passages one describing his initiation into crack with an older man a former neighbor and the other freezing the moment when he realizes just how low he has sunkThe taste is like medicine or cleaning fluid but also a little sweet like limes The smoke billows out into the living room past Fitz like a great unfurling dragon As he watches the cloud spread and curl he feels the high at first as a flutter then a roar A surge of new energy pounds through every inch of him and there is a moment of perfect oblivion where he is aware of nothing and everything A kind of peace breaks out behind his eyes It spreads down from his temples into his chest to his hands and everywhere It storms through him—kinetic sexual euphoric—like a magnificent hurricane raging at the speed of light It is the warmest most tender caress he has ever felt and then as it recedes the coldest hand He misses the feeling even before it’s left him and not only does he want he needs itMy towel comes off again and I see in the mirror a rickety skeleton—elbows and knees and knuckles bulging like bolted wooden joints strung with thread I am the marionette I have seen hundreds of times before but never thought was me I am only sticks and strings and spasms Money gone Love gone Career gone Reputation gone Friends gone Hope gone Compassion gone Usefulness gone Second chances gone And if there had been any hesitation about dying that’s gone now tooI don’t know how anyone reading this could fail to feel a strong pang of compassion for Clegg The fact that he is even alive after what he put his body through – let alone a recent Booker Prize nominee for his debut novel – is astonishing I hope to make time for that novel very soon This was dreadful Not the writing which was effective and uite 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 acknowledgementsthough it’s interesting to note that my disappointment is suarely based on the author’s depiction of him This is just a very sad cautionary tale Memoirs are a brave undertaking and this one felt both honest and effective 35 stars 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 looksBut 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 ManClegg interweaves tales of his scoring drugs he had several regular dealers but would also often simply get into a cab and ask “Do you party?” with seuences from his childhood As a boy he suffered from a mysterious condition that prevented him from urinating normally; this caused a rift between him and his father and provided a well of guilt shame and secrecy that followed him foreverAt 12 he stole a bottle of whiskey from his dad’s liuor cabinet and drank it with a friend in the woods; at 15 he began taking crystal meth regularly He graduated to pot smoking it daily before being introduced to crack in his mid 20s by a man nearly three times his age who also seduces him Here is part of Clegg’s description of that first crack high He draws slowly as he sees the white substance bubble and pop in the flame A pearly smoke makes its way down the stem and he draws harder to bring it toward him Fitz tells him to go gently and he does Soon his lungs are full and he holds it the way he would hold pot smoke He exhales and is immediately coughing The taste is like medicine or cleaning fluid but also a little sweet like limes The smoke billows out into the living room past Fitz like a great unfurling dragon As he watches the cloud spread and curl he feels the high at first as a flutter then a roar A surge of new energy pounds through every inch of him and there is a moment of perfect oblivion where he is aware of nothing and everything A kind of peace breaks out behind his eyes It spreads down from his temples into his chest to his hands and everywhere It storms through him – kinetic sexual euphoric – like a magnificent hurricane raging at the speed of light It is the warmest most tender caress he has ever felt and then as it recedes the coldest hand He misses the feeling even before it’s left him and not only does he want he needs it Amazing right? Clegg certainly knows how to describe things There are scenes detailing such bad decisions that I felt like crying out for him to stop as I was reading them His paranoia is so extreme that he believes DEA agents and police are after him in collaboration with taxi drivers These suspicions are never proven or disprovenWhat’s most satisfying is that Clegg never makes facile conclusions about why he’s hooked on drugs He discusses feeling like an imposter; he details his mother’s bout with cancer and his parents’ separation But he is too smart to provide a direct link between these things and his need for self immolationEarlier this year Clegg published a seuel to Portrait called Ninety Days about his eventual recovery I want to read it He’s such a perceptive writer and I'm looking forward to discovering what he's learned But I think I'll wait until I’ve fully recovered from the intensity of his remarkable first bookUPDATE I should have mentioned before that Clegg's then boyfriend Ira Sachs made a fictional film about this period in their lives – from his point of view It's called Keep The Lights On and it's definitely worth checking out before or after reading this I reviewed the film upon release here 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 trickyI would have liked it better if he had really reflected on the way his raceclass 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 room service who stumble home to buildings that don't have doormen these folks go to jail forever or dieMaybe it's not fair to judge him for not having a social justice agenga but I found myself wanting to shake him particularly when he is so high and disheveled that he can't check into a hotel I think it's the W so he goes to SoHo to buy a new cashmere sweaterThe writing is strongest and most self aware when Clegg recounts some really painful moments from his childhood He employs a risky device of talking about his child self in third person but he pulls it off Sure I read it hence two stars and I read it uickly 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 heart goes out to his family and the countless others he has hurt This is the story of a privileged white dude who apparently became 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 book was kind of like crack in that I wanted to keep reading it until there was no book left to read but the whole time I knew deep down that it was really bad for me and when it was all over I felt wretched In conclusion with all the addiction memoirs out there I don't really see why anyone needs to read this one 35 STARSThis 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 uite 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 Although crack wasn't my only drug of choice or even my main one this audiobook was extremely triggering for me Luckily I have been in recovery long enough to have made plans for such things in order to keep me from relapsing Not to mention my beautiful daughter who is now almost 10 months old She keeps me sober I know I have to do it for me and I do But my love for her is WAY powerful than my love for myself I honestly believe she saved my life even though she was born when I was already in sobriety THANK GODI don't care to go into detail as to what parts of the book triggered me but let's just say that it definitely had me thinking back to my past uite a bit Due to my personal bias with this book I feel as though I cann0t give a fair review so I am just going with my heart on this one I don't feel like I can really rate this book or say what to change or not change because this is a memoir you can't change your experiences Although I would've liked the author to talk a little about how he got better and how he is doing today and the importance of getting help and not being ashamedeven if it wasn't part of his storymaybe at the end or something Addiction is such a real thingand let me tell you IT DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE 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 lifeWhat is it that leads an exceptional young mind want to disappear Clegg makes stunningly clear the attraction of the drug that had him in its thrall capturing in scene after scene the drama tension and paranoiac nightmare of a secret life and the exhilarating bliss that came again and again until it was eclipsed almost entirely by doom He also explores the shape of addiction how its pattern not its cause can be traced to the past Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man is an utterly compelling narrative lyrical irresistible harsh honest and beautifully written from which you simply cannot look away 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 jacket as model handsome At the time of the memoir he was living with his partner Noah a seemingly flawless mate in an incredible apartment given to them by Noah's wealthy grandmother He and a friend had just started their own literary agency and he has a large group of friends and family and clients I won't give away the whole story because it is rather suspenseful writing even though you are practically told from the start that the house of cards is all going to fallWhat makes it such compelling reading even when you know where it is headed are the details missing airplane flights check in for the flight and then take a cab back to an airport hotel to smoke some crack planning to get back in time to catch the flight; the paranoia of thinking that every taxi cab driver is working for the DEA; meandering down a street with exclusive shops to find a leather shop which can make extra holes in his belt before his pants fall down; the ease with which these repeated drug transactions are made The latter is particularly fascinating He made calls sometimes once or twice a night to get drugs and then would run out to find an ATM wherever he was so that he could take out 300 at a time to pay for the drugs at each installment My only uibble is with the style of the modern day memoir used here Why do we have to jump back and forth in time so much? He is five; then college; current day; drug days; then back to six then drug days Because I read so uickly at each transition I had to ask myself who are these guys with him his grade school friends or his crack companions? It is dizzying Harrowing with a can't look away oh god I want to look away uality 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 without ever lapsing into sentimental overstatement And I was grateful for that It would be easy to hate Clegg from this portrait and some readers below certainly admit to finding him repulsive But that's okay as Clegg doesn't cut himself any slack He details just how awful he was to those who loved him just how much he counted on them to pick him up after he'd cast himself down just how much money he burned through by feeding it into a crack pipe So while it would be easy to hate him the book convinces you that he actually is an addict and in doing so earns him a measure of forgiveness A lesser writer would try to write excuses into the book but Clegg understands that there is no excuse or explanation for addiction It just picks up the person and doesn't let go And so he just lets the book as testament stand for itself It either makes the case or doesn't and to try to excuse himself would have been unseemly It is what it isAnd what it is is a particularly effective portrait of someone throwing his life away That the book exists is the only bright spot here because reading we know he comes out the other side clearly able to create something approaching art

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