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Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger
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Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  3,215 ratings  ·  622 reviews
Now a major motion picture starring Melissa McCarthy—Lee Israel’s hilarious and shocking memoir of the astonishing caper she carried on for almost two years when she forged and sold more than three hundred letters by such literary notables as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, Noel Coward, and many others.

Before turning to her life of crime—running a one-woman forgery business o
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Hardcover, 144 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Simon Schuster
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Average rating 3.27  · 
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 ·  3,215 ratings  ·  622 reviews


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Jessica Woodbury
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
You have probably only heard of this book because of the movie based on it, which is in theaters now. And you may be wondering if you should read the book first and I am happy to answer that question for you. This is one of those rare situations where the movie is a strong adaptation and you probably do not need to read the book first. In fact, I think seeing the movie first is just fine.

There will certainly be those who have already seen the movie and now wonder if they should read the book. H
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Joey Woolfardis
True Crime books are a little bit of a philosophical quandary for me. There is a psychological process known as cognitive dissonance, which-put simply-means holding two contravening ideals or faiths at the same time. The dissonance in the case of true crime books is being interesting in understanding why criminals do what they do and being simultaneously disgusted by what they do. Wanting to know why someone murdered is not the same as wanting to murder.

But it seems I digress, because all Lee Is
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emma
Feb 09, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i bought this at a used bookstore, and all i can say is:

i understand why someone gave their copy of this away.
Hanneke
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A hilarious account of Lee Israel's forgery of letters of celebrities. She produced some 300 of them. She especially liked to manufacture letters from Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward, some of which are printed in the book and are very funny. I thought it was remarkable that she declared, after her arrest, that she considered the forged letters the best writing she had ever done. She wrote some biographies before and later worked as a copyeditor. Thanks, Sketchbook, for recommending this memoir!
Jean-Luke
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lee Israel reminds me of pre-Italy-serial-killer Tom Ripley, the two of them cooking up schemes together in New York. She calls him Thomas, and he calls her Leonore (they have by now each had a few) as they sit in the Green Cage and do celebrity impressions. Lee finishes with her best Nora Ephron and from there they go on to relate the last time they can recall doing an honest day's work.
Sketchbook
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: currently
A screwball confessional that would delight Preston Sturges: Lee Israel, an adroit scribe of celeb bios, finds herself financially low - like all writers unless they inherit or marry money - and engages in some Restoration mischief that will offend the righteous and self-righteous. From her tiny one-room NYC flat, she forged innocuous celeb "letters" & signatures -- Ferber, Hellman, Parker, Noel Coward. "I was imprudent with money," she explains, and "I fell in love with a beautiful bartender na ...more
Ammar
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
This short one setting kind of non fiction is the basis of the new movie called Can You Ever Forgive Me ? By Lee Israel who is a forger of famous letters.

She started by copying letters in the style of some of the celebrities like Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker, and then improved by copying exact letters on similar paper and using similar typewriters and then replacing the forged one for the original and selling the original to dealers in New York and other states.

I wish the book had more detai
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Grace
Yesterday, I found myself in the waiting room of a dealership waiting for a minor repair to be completed on my car (thank goodness for the warranty - I walked out of there paying nothing!). While seated in a surprisingly comfortable blue pleather chair, I read Lee Israel's "Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger." It was a short paperback and I was at the dealership less than two hours. While it made the time pass, for which I am grateful, it left a lot to be desired. As I turned ...more
Oriana
Dec 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2009
This is a nice little memoir. It's very short, but really well written – as it should be, considering that Israel is a very accomplished, bestselling writer.

The story goes: Israel wrote several biographies and became a bit of a sensation. She made piles of money, and was schmoozed with martini lunches by much of the literati. Then she wrote a tell-all about Estee Lauder, which bombed. Then the hot-shot editors were suddenly always in meetings when she called. Accustomed to the high life (and a
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Rod Brown
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.
Cindy Burnett
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an interesting read.  Written by Lee Israel herself, she details how she managed to forge over 300 letters (attributing them to Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker, and numerous others) and successfully sell them to renowned experts across the United States.  Once the forgery business starts to get dicey, Israel ups her game to stealing letters from college library collections including Columbia and Yale.  Eventually, her crimes catch up with her, and her business screeches to a halt.  Isra ...more
Ivan
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There is an old adage: never shit where you eat. Lee Israel is a very naughty lady who committed a series of high crimes and misdemeanors within and against the literary community in which she herself worked and lived. In this slim memoir she explains herself; and while she admits to wrong doing, this isn’t quite an apologia.
Israel was an acclaimed biographer of Tallulah Bankhead and Dorothy Kilgallen who, having written a bad book about Estee Lauder, found herself down and out. So, she bit the
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♥ Sandi ❣
4 stars

Short but satisfying. The autobiography of Lee Israel, forger. Although no longer with us, she died in 2014, Israel made her living forging the letters of the most popular people in her lifetime. An author in her own right, but down to selling her possessions just to eat and feed her cat, she devised this plan to maintain not only her livelihood but her reputation.

This story has been made into a feature movie starring Melissa McCarthy with the opportunity for McCarthy to stretch her acti
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Liz
Feb 08, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
2/8/19 No, I can Never forgive you, mostly because this author is not the least bit sorry. This book was her sly way of showing off. She just wanted everyone to see how much history she knew and what a great writer she thinks she is. Worse, she is no where near as cleaver as she thinks she is. This piece of garbage spends most of the book just reading verbatim her forged letters. They are not particularly interesting, a bunch of 1920 starlets I don't know and don't care to know. They seem as sel ...more
fleegan
Jul 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a short (really short) autobiographical work by Lee Israel telling about the time period where she was in such dire straits that she resorted to forging letters of literary greats like Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, and Noël Coward. Apparently she was pretty good at it.

She’s a good storyteller and a talented writer so it seemed weird that she’d have to result to theft and forgery to make money. She does admit that pride did keep her from taking “real” jobs.

While this book was entertain
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Grace
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I agree with the Groucho Marx quote on the back, "The sole virtue of Lee Israel's memoir is its brevity!"

Seriously, there is nothing redeeming about this woman. She's starts out by showing how entitled and pretentious she is by snubbing her nose at any sort of menial work that she could do in between less than spectacular books. Then, she continues to show how entitled and pretentious she is by noting that she can't be arsed to learn to work with other people. Never once did she take the time t
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Ronnie Cramer
You'll need a shower after reading this brief autobiographical account of literary theft and forgery. Yes, the writing is good; as noted elsewhere, the perp is/was a 'real' author. She's also unapologetic, unsympathetic and immensely unlikable.
Djj
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Meh telling of fraud by the author in which she forged MANY letters by famous people and sold to dealers in the early 90s. Israel seems to think she's Dorothy Parker, but she's most definitely not. She comes across as not very likable and blames everyone but herself for her problems. Interesting read, but I felt like I wanted to get away from her as fast as possible.
Karyn
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fun and witty crime spree by Lee Israel, which she claimed as her best work.
Jennifer
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is quality writing, that is why I'm giving this 4 stars. I can't give it 5 stars because if what she did. She was a NYT bestselling author and she resorted to forging letters to earn money? She didn't even seem truly sorry for what she did. This wasn't the worst book I've ever read but not the best I've ever read, solid writing.
T Campbell
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Torn on this one. Israel's a really charming writer and her slow decline into forgery is understandable and artfully presented. I hope Melissa McCarthy does well with the material. But in these fraught times, I have trouble fully endorsing a story about a colorful liar. At least she gets busted by the FBI, unlike some.
Tom
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wanted to enjoy it more but it the stakes were too low and the slim text was padded just to get to a two-and-a-half hour unabridged audio book (read superbly by Jane Curtin). Lee Israel herself was more intriguing than her caper, and it's hard to get past that when there is so little of said life in here.
Julene
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
An excellent example of how the human mind can justify just about anything - to itself, at least. I'll concede it's well-written but the literary name-dropping pulled me out of the story too often for me to find its flow. A (partial) admission of guilt with zero apology.
Hákon Gunnarsson
Mar 12, 2020 marked it as to-read
I just saw the film staring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, and now I really have to read this. Lee Israel sounds quite interesting.
Xanthi
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
It didn’t take me long to find myself disliking the author, regardless of her crimes. She came across as arrogant, flippant and annoying. Her one redeeming feature was that she liked cats.
As for her crimes, I actually took greater umbrage to her theft of letters from libraries, than her forgeries. I work in a Special Collections University library where we have to be mindful of security. It was actually the manager of this library that told me about the film made from this book. I haven’t seen i
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John
Short book at only three hours, but enough time for the author to get her point across. First third serves as background of her life leading up to the caper, quite interesting. Second consists largely of examples of her work, not as suited to audio format for me, though well read. Last part concerns dealers becoming suspicious, and her eventual conviction. Not a lot of remorse, but she does make the point that dealers often resold her work at a markup as "guaranteed provenance."

Jane Curtin's nar
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Avinash
A boring narrative that was forced into the realm of intrigue by name-dropping.
Connor Daley
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting and short enough to retain my attention. However, it is gratuitous and seemingly without a hint of genuine remorse.
Mairi
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'll keep the review quick: Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a very short book about a very short (but career defining) period in Lee Israel's life.

I picked it up hoping to read it before watching the film. The trailer for which paints Israel very relatably, as a middle aged, struggling author who- out of a combination of desperation and poverty begins forging letters. Ah, but thats the power of film. The film makers did a much better job of telling the story that Israel herself.

From the typo on page
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Mazola1
Sep 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
In this brief memoir, Lee Israel, a New York Times best-selling author, recounts that time in her life when she fell on hard times and turned to a life of crime. A talented and witty writer, Israel first fabricated letters from talented and witty writers such as Dorothy Parker and Edna Ferber. From that, she progressed to stealing genuine letters from libraries and replacing them with forgeries made by her.

The story is entertaining, the false letters fascinating. Israel seems to have real talent
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Leonore Carol "Lee" Israel was an American author, now better known for her literary forgeries than for her two very popular biographies.

She began a career as a freelance writer in the 1960s. Her profile of Katharine Hepburn ran in the November 1967 issue of Esquire. In the 1970s and 1980s she wrote biographies of actress Tallulah Bankhead, journalist and game show panelist Dorothy Kilgallen and
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