Typewriter Daily: A Book Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?



This book, originally published in 2008, has new legs thanks to the movie with the same name: Can You Ever Forgive Me?" The book and the movie (which I've seen) are about memorist Lee Israel who turned to forging letters from celebrities when she got desperate for cash. 

I liked the book much better, as I often do. You really get a sense of Israel's writing style. I kept thinking of how gifted she was a writer when she wrote in her voice about her own life. Ironically, of the four books she published, this final book is what's she most known for.  Funny, sarcastic, it's not hard to see why. I kept thinking she would have been a great novelist, but she was a sucker for the advances she got for her non-fiction. (You don't get advances for fiction unless you're an established rain-maker). 

She bought a slew of typewriters from a New York City store that sold vintage machines. She had so many she rented a storage locker, which she filled with old Royals, Adlers, Olympias even a German one with an umlaut for Dorothy Parker, "knowing that she would have fun with an umlaut." She attached hang tags to all: Edna (Ferber), Noel (Coward, Dorothy, Clara Blandick, Kurt Weill and others. 

Israel was able to successfully write and type in the voice of all these celebrities which she sold to dealers nationwide. 

Here are some bon mots from her book, which made me totally fall in love with her writing. 

* "As I stood in front of her, I went into high alert, calling on the oldest area of my brain -- the part that worked overtime on the savannah, evading predation by camouflage. I turned myself into ZaSu Pitts, a nervous dervish, arms flapping, stuttering nonsense, and then spinning back to the seat from which I had come. 'Oh goodness,' I dithered. 'I forgot to copy the dates on the letters I read. I'd forget my head if it weren't attached. What a dope I am!" And I slapped my face hard -- moving from ZaSu Pitts to the more challenged of the Three Stooges.'

*  Forging Walt Disney's signature "would have been out of the question: his signature looks like something underneath the Articles of Confederation."

* "I was imprudent with money and Dionysian to the quick."

* about the Estee Lauder book she wrote that led to her life in forgery:  "The Estee Lauder biography was the beginning of the end for me as a hotshot writer. I'd left my cake out of the rain. No more two-martini wooing at the Four Seasons. And I blame Gregory Peck!"

Get this book if you can. It's a gem! 




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