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Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel
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Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2008)

by Lee Israel

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16111114,202 (3.3)12
The author describes how, for nearly two years, she successfully executed a remarkable forgery caper in which she used her talent as a researcher and celebrity biographer to forge more than three hundred letters by literary notables.

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» See also 12 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
gh. Seriously unappealing. Thin on story, thick on self pity. Might be more appealing as a film.

There are no dates so it's impossible to tell if we're talking the '80s or the early aughts. Israel is pleased with her own cleverness but doesn't detail much. Her disdain for others is so unappealing. ( )
  unabridgedchick | Oct 9, 2019 |
If you've seen the movie you can more or less skip the memoir but it's interesting if you want to see how true to life the movie was. The movie is a bittersweet delight thanks to the actors; the story as recounted in the book is tawdry and cheap. Israel's tone is matter of fact and even a little defiant; she comes across as largely unsympathetic although her writing is crisp and skillful. So if you're thinking about choosing, I would pick the movie, as the book is a largely unpleasant experience. ( )
1 vote bostonbibliophile | Mar 4, 2019 |
This sketch of a book amounts to little more than a magazine article about Israel's career as a thief and forger. To fill it out, she includes multiple examples of the fake letters she created, pointing out which bits were hers and which came from the famous people she was aping. She is obviously proud of her work and generally seems unrepentant.

But her fuck 'em attitude and snark kept me reading even as it repelled me. Looking forward to seeing the movie now. ( )
  villemezbrown | Mar 2, 2019 |
This book might actually be the rare case where the movie might be better than the book! ( )
  yukon92 | Jan 10, 2019 |
Down-on-her-luck celebrity biographer Lee Israel came up with a money making scheme that both stretched her creativity and got her in trouble with the FBI. Using both her literary gifts and her research skills, she forged autographed letters supposedly written by twentieth century luminaries such as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, and Noel Coward, and sold them to brokers, who in turn sold them to collectors. Two of her Noel Coward forgeries even ended up in a book of the composer's collected correspondence. As her involvement in her crimes deepened, she even stole materials from archives and academic libraries.

Eventually Israel had to face the music, but I don't have the impression that her conscience bothered her very much. She seems to have fancied herself as a folk anti-heroine, like Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde.

This witty memoir, which can be read in about an hour, provides an interesting look at an uncommon crime. ( )
2 vote akblanchard | Dec 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lee Israelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Curtin, JaneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dingler, C. LauraDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Bill Aue. . . who would have had fun
with all this . . .
and Byron Dobell
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They were such good company, even by letter.
If with that last letter you pictured the urbane playwright in Switzerland, cigarette-holdered and smoking-jacketed, dashing off a letter in the 1960s from a cozy nook up in Chalet Coward – the house he bought in the Alps to take advantage of Switzerland's kinda gentler tax laws – located in Les Avants. Montreux, just down the mountain from the David Nivens at Chateau D'Oex, where Coward entertained guests that included Marlene,Garbo, George Cukor, Rebecca West, and a group that Elaine Stritch once called “all the Dames Edith”. . . you would be wrong.
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Before turning to the criminal life, running a onewoman forgery scam out of an Upper West Side studio shared with her tortoiseshell cat, and dodging the FBI, Lee Israel enjoyed a celebrated reputation as an author. When her writing career suddenly took a turn for the worse, she conceived of the astonishing literary scheme that fooled even many of the experts. Forging hundreds of letters from such collectible luminaries as Dorothy Parker, Noël Coward, and Lillian Hellman -- and recreating their autographs with a flourish -- Israel sold her "memorabilia" to dealers across the country, producing a collection of pitch-perfect imitations virtually indistinguishable from the voices of their real-life counterparts. Exquisitely written, with reproductions of her marvelous forgeries, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is Israel's delightful, hilarious memoir of a brilliant and audacious literary crime caper. [publisher]

Contents and pigeons -- Wretched and excessive -- A Mayan minute -- The flies -- Slippery slope -- Cousin Sidney -- Louise -- Riffing -- Faux Louise -- Dorothy -- Noel -- The jig is up -- Violets for his furs -- Trimester two -- This ain't no country club, Lee -- Prep time -- My third trimester.
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