Light Weekend Reading–Not

I was introduced to ‘Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man’ on Saturday. Once it was in my hand, I couldn’t put it down. I finished the book by bedtime on Sunday.

This is a memoir written by literary agent, Bill Clegg from New York, who walked away from his life when he could no longer control his secret addiction to crack. He had everything he wanted in the palm of his hand and he walked away. It took him only 2 months to clean out his bank account ($70,000), and hit rock bottom.

This story gripped me so wholly that I can’t tell you if the writing was good or bad. I never paid attention to the format, or the sentence structure, or the opening paragraph, or the hook, or the…

You get the idea.

I don’t read memoirs usually. I also don’t read much about drug addiction. I read for entertainment. I like light, easy, and funny, when I can get it.

This wasn’t humorous or light. Reading about a man whole-heartedly set on self destruction was hard to swallow. Reading about how he hurt his friends and family was even harder but I couldn’t put it down.

Drug use is a choice, but addiction is not. I was reminded with every word that drug addiction is a disease. This is never mentioned in the book. Bill doesn’t journal his recovery, or preach about the bad effects of drug use, nor is this a self-help book on how to get clean. This is simply a story about a man who lost it.

If you’re interested, chick here for a excerpt.

Here are a couple of interviews.

The New York Times And Asylum

16 thoughts on “Light Weekend Reading–Not

  1. I read the excerpt and will see if the library has a copy. It sounds like quite a ride, although terrifying at the same time. Thank God he lived through it.

  2. Great Post! I can’t help wondering what all the writers he represents and represent(ed)- past tense thought of his book. I’ve read a few memoirs and really enjoyed Mary Karr’s two, and Nick Flynn’s. Shocking stories tend to grip me in a similar fashion so that I can’t put the book down and end up reading it until 4 am to finish. Good stories do that. I’ve never been brave enough to publish in the memoir genre, I lean towards “creative non-fiction. Now there’s a topic! 🙂
    Thanks for the lovely comments on my new blog. I so appreciate readers like you. It makes my whole week to have a new comment.

    1. I wonder too. I read an article about how he has yet to speak to his former partner, who he left high and dry within days of her maternity leave. I’m sure she’s still pretty pissed about that. 🙂
      His first client after his recovery was an old friend that worked in publishing, who had decided to write a novel just as he was reentering the business. Now that’s faith for you.
      Your blog is good. I have no doubt that you’ll have a faithful following in no time. 🙂

  3. I haven’t read a memoir in a couple years … and not many in the years before, but I’ve just reserved this at my library. I need to read this for research, actually. Is the whole book written in present tense? I’m not sure I’ve read a book written in that tense before. Anyway, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    1. Actually, I didn’t even notice it was written in present tense. I was too engrossed in the story. I know the stories from his childhood are in third person but the more recent stories are first person. There is no dialogue, and all quotes are in italics.
      It was all telling–no showing. That was something I notice right away but I don’t have experience with memoirs so that could be the normal thing to do. As I read I felt like he was telling me a story, not like I was immersed in his world. Which worked for me because I don’t like heavy depressing reads.
      I read it for research too, which made the length perfect, it wasn’t long and it was a easy to get through.

  4. Even though I knew James Fry’s “A Million Little Pieces” was partly fictionalized, it was a fascinating, riveting read. Somehow train wrecks are impossible to look away from. Speaking of grammar….

    1. I haven’t read ‘A Million Little Pieces’, but like I said, I don’t usually read stuff like this. And, yeah, train wreck is a good description. Yikes! Scary how life and turn on you when you’re not paying attention.

  5. There have been many books that I’ve picked up and when I started to read them found that they were written with such riveting honesty that I forgot my role of reading as a writer and simply got lost in the story as a reader. So I know exactly what you mean when you talk of your experience reading this book. (I’ve not read this one in particular.)

    I dream for the day when my writing reeks of such honesty that my readers forgive my poor grammar and style. In the past I have often debate whether I should forget all that I’ve learned (writing rules and structure), and speak as my heart and my characters desire. As if I were writing a memoir. It is a choice every writer eventually faces and has to make.

    1. It’s engrossing, I guess for me it’s out of the ordinary because I read crap most of the time. 🙂
      The truth is, I would’ve never picked this book up. It was thrusted into my hands at birthday party in Saturday. I’m not one for parties so I curled into a chair and instantly became antisocial and started reading.

  6. I’m gonna pass on this one, thanks, but looks riveting. I did get totally engrossed in/by “A Million Little Pieces” and didn’t care whether it was true or not. Like Gully said, it’s hard to look away from a train wreck. But after the heartbreak of one of my son’s friend’s overdose death, I just can’t….

    1. Yes, this would hit close to home for you then. Sorry to hear about your son’s friend. It’s devastating to loose a young life to something so incredibly preventable. 🙁

      1. Gah. Had terrible nightmares last night after reading the excerpt. Yeah, my son’s friend was an awful, awful thing. His was something like the 3rd or 4th OD on campus that year. His parents were very open about it — this is what happened, this is what can happen. And they started a drug resource center at the school. But it can never ever bring back any of the lives that have been lost. What a waste.

  7. Maybe I should pick this up – it sounds totally NOT up my alley in terms of what I like to read, but I am trying to read memoir and just returned one to the library that I just couldn’t get into. Hmmmm….it sounds like an excellent book.

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