Author: Lee Israel
Broke, behind on rent, and, drowning in her cat’s vet bills, an author turns to crime to keep her head above water.
I was browsing the ever so lovely ONTD when a trailer for Melissa Macarthy’s newest film popped up. A movie about a washed up author living in New York who steals and forges letters of Hollywood and literary icons to pay her rent and her cat’s vet bills. After I finished watching the trailer I thought to myself “If this was a book, I’d totally read it”. After finding out it was based on a real woman, I looked her up, found the book, and, requested it from the library.
When I first picked up “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, I realized how much I loved the cover. The textured, off-white paper, the title in typewriter-esq font, and the loopy signature of Lee Israel in bright red. I’m crazy about good typography and layout on book covers.
With a title like “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” you would think that the author would be writing for forgiveness or redemption or maybe expressing remorse for their crimes. But not Lee Israel, not this book. There was really no remorse at all. She didn’t ask for anything or try to paint herself as some tragic figure. Lee fully acknowledges that what she did was wrong. She pretty much admits that she forged and stole, not because it was her only option, but because it was the only option she wanted. In fact, Lee was very proud of herself throughout the book. She pats herself on the back for getting revenge on an uppity bookstore clerk (by telling him his apartment is on fire with his pets still inside), for figuring out that she could use a TV as a lightbox, and, for fooling “experts” with her writing. I could tell Lee thought of that as an amazing accomplishment as a writer, to be able to seamlessly mimic the “greats”.
This was another one of those books where the story was interesting enough that I didn’t pay much attention to the quality of the writing. The writing was good though, and easy to follow. When I picked the book up, I found that I couldn’t put it down. Even though I knew what happened at the end (she got caught, duh!) I had to know what happened, from her perspective.
I would recommend this book. It’s a short, interesting read about a scam that would’ve been foiled in 0.2 seconds today with the advent of Google. It has a sarcastic tone and a lot of vindictiveness on Lee’s part and was worth the read.