Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Lee Israel

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Lee Israel was born in New York City on December 3, 1939. She received a bachelor's degree in speech from Brooklyn College in 1961. In the 1960s and 1970s, she was a freelance writer, contributing articles on film, theater, and television to several publications including The New York Times and Soap Opera Digest. Her first book, Miss Tallulah Bankhead, was published in 1972. Her other biographies include Kilgallen and Estée Lauder: Beyond the Magic. In the early 1990s, she became a literary forger because her career was at a standstill and she could not handle getting a real job. She composed and sold hundreds of letters that she said had been written by the likes of Edna Ferber, Dorothy Parker, Noël Coward, and Lillian Hellman. She dealt with typed letters, which only required her to copy the signatures. When talk concerning the authenticity of her wares made composing new letters too risky, she began stealing actual letters from archives and leaving duplicates in their place. She was captured by the F.B.I., and in June 1993, she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce. She was sentenced to six months' house arrest and five years' probation. This experience was documented in Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger, which was published in 2008. In recent years, she worked as a copy editor for Scholastic magazines. She died from complications of myeloma on December 24, 2014 at the age of 75.
 
Published August 5, 2008 by Simon & Schuster. 129 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Crime. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger

The New York Times

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A New York writer recalls how she created and sold hundreds of fake letters “by” celebrities such as Noël Coward and the silent-film star Louise Brooks.

Aug 03 2008 | Read Full Review of Can You Ever Forgive Me? Mem...

Publishers Weekly

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Signature Reviewed by Edward Dolnick Forgery is a strange crime because, until the police show up, the victims ne

Jul 07 2008 | Read Full Review of Can You Ever Forgive Me? Mem...

Book Reporter

Using the same stationery as the offending item, she wrote the dealer a scathing letter from the dead Dorothy chiding him for cheating "poor wayward Lee Israel."

Dec 26 2010 | Read Full Review of Can You Ever Forgive Me? Mem...

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