Your audiobook is waiting…

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Memoirs of a Literary Forger
Narrated by: Jane Curtin
Length: 2 hrs and 40 mins
4 out of 5 stars (105 ratings)
Regular price: $10.49
$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

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 300 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 out of a phone booth in a Greenwich Village bar and even dodging the FBI - Lee Israel had a legitimate career as an author of biographies. Her first book on Tallulah Bankhead was a New York Times best seller, and her second, on the late journalist and reporter Dorothy Kilgallen, made a splash in the headlines.

But by 1990, almost broke and desperate to hang onto her Upper West Side studio, Lee made a bold and irreversible career change: inspired by a letter she’d received once from Katharine Hepburn, and armed with her considerable skills as a researcher and celebrity biographer, she began to forge letters in the voices of literary greats. Between 1990 and 1991, she wrote more than 300 letters in the voices of, among others, Dorothy Parker, Louise Brooks, Edna Ferber, Lillian Hellman, and Noel Coward - and sold the forgeries to memorabilia and autograph dealers.

Exquisitely written, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is “a slender, sordid, and pretty damned fabulous book about her misadventures” (The New York Times Book Review).

©2008 Lee Israel (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

“Lee Israel is deft, funny, and eminently entertaining…[in her] gentle parable about the modern culture of fame, about those who worship it, those who strive for it, and those who trade in its relics.” (The Associated Press) 

More from the same

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    44
  • 4 Stars
    30
  • 3 Stars
    22
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    1

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    57
  • 4 Stars
    26
  • 3 Stars
    12
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    2

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    39
  • 4 Stars
    28
  • 3 Stars
    25
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    2
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

The most interesting since

This is the most interesting story I've heard of everyday people living in a city since The New Yorkers. If you've read The New Yorkers, you'll enjoy this one!!! The narration is great!! I do also recommend The New Yorkers if you haven't read it. Definitely look it up!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Potential to be so much better

I'm conflicted in writing this review. This has the bones of a very interesting and layered story. Israel's writing style is too jaunty and 50s-esque however (flitted all over, dropping names and more names and very superficial) and it made it all seem like no big deal. She forged over 400 letters and had a myriad of problems such as financial, addiction, emotional and relational. Those, apart from the financial, are glossed over and almost told in a humorous anecdotal way. Overall the book came off as shallow, undeveloped and arrogant. Having said all that, again the true story has potential for so much depth and intrigue. Jane Curtain's narration was superb.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A fast, fun listen. (The movie is better.)

This is a fun, fast listen. Lee Israel is a terrific writer with lively, vivid descriptions and wonderful turns of phrase. It's amazing how closely the movie follows this book. With, of course, some added material and relationships. Israel quotes extensively from her own phony letters. A little of this goes a long way. It's clear she was (justly?) proud of her cleverness, but after a while, enough is enough. She certainly is unrepentant, which is almost admirable, except she was, after all, ripping people off. The movie is superb, makes Israel a more likable person, and gives the same info. I guess this functions mainly to fill in some details and as a cultural curiosity. Jane Curtain is swell--the right amount of annoyance and swagger--but annoyingly pronounces Noel Coward like the American way of pronouncing the holiday. I've never heard his name pronounced this way.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Super fun!

Jane Curtin's performance is superb. She brought to life this nearly unbelievable story giving voice to Lee's life. I especially enjoyed Lee's letters. Great work indeed!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Should have been better

The story itself is incredibly compelling and interesting, but the book is not that engaging. The book is being adapted to film starring Melissa McCarthy, which hooked me. This'll probably make a great film, but as a memoir is was a bit lack luster.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A fun, quick listen

It's certainly amusing, and Jane Curtin does a good job--however, her inability to pronounce Noel Coward's name correctly is irritating.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Holly
  • ALEXANDRIA, VA, United States
  • 10-26-18

Suspend your disapproval for best enjoyment

Having recently seen an advertisement for the movie of this, I decided to read it...I think I will enjoy the movie a lot, though I certainly don't approve of the crimes and would not personally like the author, I imagine. However, knowing she is no longer living and won't benefit from the profits, changes things a bit. It is well-written and interesting...enjoyed more in those moments when you can suspend your disapproval.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful