Friday, October 11, 2013

Review Me Twice: Can You Ever Forgive Me by Lee Israel

So, in theory, I should really dislike this woman.  I mean, she made money for years off of imitating the letters that other writers wrote.  When her writing career took a nose dive, she started drafting up a litany of fake letters, supposedly written by a whole lot of dead people, but were really just her creations based off of real letters that she read in libraries.  (And, to be fair... I DO kind of hate her because she got a slap on the wrist and she's not even sorry.)

And when her fakes were starting to get exposed, she started STEALING the real copies & replacing them with fakes.

Terrible.  Absolutely terrible.

And yet... you can't help feel that she had an inordinate amount of FUN writing these people... these characters, really, because that's what they were.  They were characters.  It was like the earliest form of fan fiction.  And while she greatly regrets the fact that she stole the originals (which, to her knowledge, have all been returned to their respective libraries), she mentions that she can't help but love those years she was forging letters.

It's a fast and interesting read.  It gets right into the nitty-gritty; not a lot of preamble with Ms. Israel.  I kind of liked that.  I didn't really have to wait to find out what happened and what she did.  However, I also realize that her writing style is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

My Bottom Line 3 1/2 out of 5

Do you know any of those people who name-drop like crazy, thinking it makes them sound important even though you don't recognize more than half the names they're saying? Or maybe you've met someone who expects you to know who they are, or know things about them based solely on their name, except you don't know who they are, and they won't offer up any information about themselves that might help you figure it out? Ooh, I know... perhaps there's someone you know who gets in trouble for something, and even though they claim to know that what they did was wrong, and they might even say they deserved to get caught, they still say their punishment was BS and they have a generally blase attitude about the whole process of serving justice?

That's how I feel about Lee Israel. When I first heard about the book and read a summary, I thought, "Wow, this should be really interesting... she did all these great forgeries, got caught, and learned her lesson, and now she's writing about it." And then I read the book.

I understand that there are some people, like Estee Lauder and Bette Davis, that should need no introduction. But I can count at least twenty names in the first dozen pages that I don't recognize (and therefore don't care about). I can only assume that Israel is writing this book for the very narrow audience of the people she directly impacted with her crimes.

And the way she talks about why she committed forgery, how she got caught, and what it was like being punished for her crimes, it makes me feel like the title is sarcastic. "Oh, could you ever forgive me for committing such horrible crimes that totally weren't as bad as everyone made them out to be?" Maybe I'm misreading the tone, but that's what I'm walking away with.

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