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Extended Audio Sample Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir Audiobook, by Bill Clegg Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,384 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Bill Clegg Narrator: Joshua Ferris, Bill Clegg Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2010 ISBN: 9781607883586
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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 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. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Bill Clegg’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man stand up to Frederick Exley’s great memoir of alcoholism, A Fan’s Notes…But really, forget comparisons. Read the book.”

    Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hours

  • “It’s a remarkable achievement when a writer can evoke the most desperate episodes of addiction with the unflinching honesty required to make such a memoir worth reading, yet somehow manage to completely transcend sleaze, sordidness, and vapid self-justification. Bill Clegg’s story of a man—largely locked in hotel rooms, engaged in a desperate, heart-wrenching battle with himself—is destined to become a cult classic of writing on drug addiction.”

    Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting

  • “Mesmerizing…Reading it is like letting the needle down on a Nick Drake album. Clegg tells his story in short, atmospheric paragraphs, each separated by white space, each its own strobe-lighted snapshot of decadent poetic memory…Among the reasons to stick with Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man is the lightly narcotized sensorium of Mr. Clegg’s prose…He can write.”

    New York Times

  • “A book that will not soon be forgotten…The narrative has a floating quality that manages to be at once brutally specific and oddly poetic…Clegg’s descent is a skillfully conjured, slow-motion wreck from which it’s impossible to look away. His handling of time, especially wasted time, has an undulating, telescoping quality…That Clegg survived and is well enough to write a book this good is incredible.”

    Globe and Mail (Toronto)

  • “It turns out there is room on the shelf for one more addiction memoir…Clegg spares no one’s feelings, least of all his own; it’s not the brutality that makes this worthwhile but rather the strange beauty of the stream-of-consciousness prose. We’re voyeurs, as helpless to stop the carnage as the author himself.”

    GQ

  • “A heartbreaking and completely absorbing look at the wreckage of cocaine addiction.”

    Booklist

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kathryn | 2/15/2014

    " Probably more of a 2.5. I thought it was surprisingly well written for the most part. One stylistic choice that drove me nuts though, was his decision to write about himself in the 3rd person as a child. I also didn't find the actual story that compelling. I thought the book focused too much on his (hopefully) last bender, which basically just involved checking into different fancy hotels, getting high, and having sex with strangers--not all that interesting after a few pages--and doesn't make you care about the narrator, since we only see him behaving deplorably to everyone around him. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Eve | 2/5/2014

    " Not necessarily original, but riveting nevertheless. Clegg's story of his descent into addiction is harrowing and compelling and it is also really heartening to see that his friends and family stood by him and helped him pull his life together in the aftermath. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenny | 2/4/2014

    " At first I was unhappy with how he would jump from childhood to his current high to college to another high to childhood etc, flipping between tenses. But really, it makes the book into two stories that don't exactly intertwine...and I'm certain my diaries look the same way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lerd Lorensen | 2/4/2014

    " Great self destruction narrative. Clegg is a talented writer. His early childhood sections are kind of a drag however and it's a little short for my tastes. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Esme Pie | 1/21/2014

    " All the press is true--a fantastic memoir by someone living for years on the brink between madness and sanity, health and death. What I liked best about this book was its intensity in describing the power of addiction. This book is less concerned with the recovery process and the life after an addiction ends. Bill Clegg also makes the reader work to draw her own conclusions, make her own connections as to how the author ended up where he did. Very compelling reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 alexandra | 1/20/2014

    " This quick read is the engaging story of a young man's crack addiction while in his 20's. I found it hard to put down, and ultimately very sad. Clegg is an Ivy League grad who finds himself sucked into the whirlpool of addiction, nearly unwilling to rejoin the real world, despite the love and understanding of his family and longtime partner Noah. It certainly clashes with the stereotype of the inner city crack addicts so pervasive in the media. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Andrea | 1/13/2014

    " Well I don't really like memoirs, but I've read a number of them and this one is no different. Like many of the addiction memoirs written since the early 90s, it's written in the present tense, with nonlinear chapters switching between first and third person. The writing is clear and compelling enough but not particularly deep or critical. The title says it all: it's a portrait of an addict, not of an addict's recovery. It's a sort of depressing picaresque, reminding me of one of the problems that can come with episodic narrative: repetition without change or insight. The author doesn't get sober until the last few pages of the book, and I genuinely wonder about the 200 pages of drugalogue before that. Is it narratively necessary to see so many scenes of the author using? There's very little character development, ultimately, so I don't care at the end that the author is maybe getting clean for real this time. I guess I kept reading it because I'm still curious about people with unlimited wealth and privilege. Why am I still curious about this? I wish I wasn't. I blame capitalism. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 1/13/2014

    " Golden boy gone wrong in NYC. This was a great story told in the first person about endless crack binges all over NYC over a three year period. A true testament to an addict having to hit rock bottom and come to terms on their own. The amount of vodka, crack and money spent are staggering (I think he spent like $70K or something over the 3 years)he holes up in all sorts of places such as $500 + per night Hotel Gavensvort to full on crack dens. I barely blinked while reading this (not from speed)its that addicting. He suffers from severe feelings of inadequacy even though hes been super successful and has a great life (pre drugs). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jcrane1095 Crane | 12/8/2013

    " Very powerful book on the consequences of addiction. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amanda Nadel | 11/3/2013

    " This book was very difficult to digest due to the honesty. It was well written but uncomfortable to read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cathleen | 10/23/2013

    " Fabulous "what's going on inside his head" account of a spiral down into the depths of addiction. Recommended reading for anyone who loves or has loved an addict. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth Chuck | 10/23/2013

    " Start this book when you have free time ahead of you, because once you start, you won't want to stop. You could even say the book itself is addicting. Heh. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katy Budget Books | 8/5/2013

    " Anna says: It's very hard to make crack addiction sound both life-alteringly horrible and funny, but Bill Clegg pulls it off. I loved this book for what it was. It's certainly not going to change my life, but it was an entertaining read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate Kobbermann | 3/15/2013

    " At times difficult to read because of its raw edges and ruthless honesty. He takes you right into the beating heart and mind of an addict, letting you live vicariously as he experienced it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 April Sanders | 12/31/2012

    " A brutal inside view into the life of an addict. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tara Hun-Dorris | 12/22/2012

    " It is a little embarrassing but I am a fan of the drug/alcohol/general dysfunctional life memoir. This one was OK but really didn't do much for me - it definitely was no Beautiful Boy or even Basketball Diaries. Still, the author was brave to share his story and portray himself so honestly. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel d. | 5/11/2012

    " It was a fast read, books about addiction always are for me, it's like once i start reading one, i just can't stop... He almost goes at the writing of it from a different angle. Almost. Which would have been nice. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna Maria Ballester Bohn | 5/9/2012

    " I guess it's difficult to say anything new when your writing an addiction story. Also, I understand that the main purpose for the writer is not literature, but getting it out there. For the reader, it's voyeurism. In this sense, the book fulfilled expectations. Crack is indeed nasty nasty stuff. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer Wanden | 1/24/2012

    " This was gritty. Very dark but I could not put it down and finished it in a couple days of a very busy weekend. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 John Treat | 10/26/2011

    " Nearly unreadable-- it might better have been entitled Portrait of Poor Little Rich Boy as an Addict with Too Many Enabling "Friends" In the Coolest Parts of Manhattan Including an Apartment in One Fifth Avenue. The meltdown at the airport was well done, though. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chantelle | 6/27/2011

    " I thought this book was one of the most moving memoirs I've ever read. I will forever remember the ending, and the feeling of falling. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kristen | 6/22/2011

    " Very sad and disturbing. Really hope he is able to stay clean! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 6/20/2011

    " It was a fast read, books about addiction always are for me, it's like once i start reading one, i just can't stop... He almost goes at the writing of it from a different angle. Almost. Which would have been nice. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa | 6/5/2011

    " Not terribly original - the addiction memoir is pretty well-trod ground at this point - but good writing made for an engaging read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katy Budget Books | 4/13/2011

    " Anna says: It's very hard to make crack addiction sound both life-alteringly horrible and funny, but Bill Clegg pulls it off. I loved this book for what it was. It's certainly not going to change my life, but it was an entertaining read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 A | 4/8/2011

    " Did I get this from you?
    Really well written and very moving. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Desiree | 3/23/2011

    " Interesting and painful read about crack addiction! Excellent for a first time author. He is a gay man with a long-suffering boyfriend, who easily could have kicked him to the curb a long time ago... Recommended! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nate | 3/16/2011

    " An easy read. You to can publish a book and make lots of money if you screw your life up badly enough and then recover. Makes me feel like I got my shit together. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 1/17/2011

    " wow - read this in almost one sitting. As the mother of three boys I found it terrifying.... how would I cope with such hopelessness and self destruction in someone I love? But it is never hopeless, and I found myself rooting for Bill Clegg, as I still am today. "

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About the Author
Author Bill CleggBill Clegg is a literary agent in New York. Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man is his first book.
About the Narrator

Joshua Ferris received a BA in English and philosophy from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of California, Irvine. His fiction has appeared in the Iowa Review, Best New American Voices 2005, and Prairie Schooner. He was born in Danville, Illinois, grew up in Key West, and now lives in Brooklyn.