Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoirby Bill Clegg isn’t coming out in June, and I hesitate to review it six months in advance of it’s publication date. But the book is so damn good (I read it in two sittings) that I don’t want to wait and let its impact fade.

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Manis about Clegg’s crack addiction. Instead of being a point A to point B story of how he became a crack addict, the book jumps back and forth, from a bender back to events in his childhood that could have lead up to him looking for an escape, ending with him coming out of rehab (I don’t think that’s a spoiler since the book is already written) and an event in his childhood that could have triggered that first need to get high.

The story’s told in chunks of paragraphs that make the narrative jumpy, but it works and helps the reader understand the jumpiness that was Clegg’s life, through the weeks of no sleep with nothing but crack, sex and vodka, to his extreme paranoia, to taking hits of crack before important work events, to family and his boyfriend trying to pull him out of hotel rooms and into rehab.

It’s an incredibly sad story, even with the positive outcome, because even though Clegg has left that world, you get the feeling that those he left behind are still there. It’s a startling portrait of addiction, and how easy it is for anyone to become hooked.

The New York Observer did a piece about Clegg’s disappearance from the literary scene, and fills in the gaps between the end of the book and today, where he is once again an agent and now author, and good to read along with this review.

This is going to be a big one, folks. It’s not often I’m floored by a memoir, and I am by this one.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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