Can You Ever Forgive Me? Summary & Study Guide

Lee Israel
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Can You Ever Forgive Me? Summary & Study Guide Description

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel .

The following version of the autobiography was used to create this study guide: Israel, Lee. Can You Ever Forgive Me? Simon and Schuster, August 5, 2008. Kindle.

In the autobiography, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, New York Times best-selling author Lee Israel describes the way she went about forging and stealing letters written by famous personalities as a way to make a living. Israel talks about the decisions she made leading up to the failure of a book about cosmetic mogul Estée Lauder as well as her opinion of her crimes after she was caught. While the title Can You Ever Forgive Me? suggests that Israel might be sorry for her crimes, the book reveals a writer who appears proud of her ability to fool so many people with her writing skills.

Israel tells her reader that after the first two books she wrote were so successful, she was not prepared for the failure of her book about Lauder. She had been offered a bribe not to write the autobiography at all but instead chose to take what she believed was the morally high ground and refuse the bribe. Israel admits that she later realized she had made the wrong choice since the failure of the Lauder book ended her career as a writer.

Israel describes how she tried to find a job but was unsuited to work with others because she had worked on her own for so long. She describes her personality as being “rather outsized” (20). When Israel adopted a new kitten who needed vet treatment, she resorted to stealing three letters written by Fanny Brice from the library. This was the beginning of her life of crime. She began by just forging letters from famous personalities, like Brice, but then began stealing original letters from collections on file at libraries and replacing them with copies. After Israel was tagged as a forger among autograph dealers, she hired an ex-con, Jack Hock, to sell the stolen letters for her.

The FBI approached Hock first when Israel’s scam was discovered by law enforcement. He agreed to cooperate and gave them Israel’s name. Israel was not arrested but knew that the police were aware of what was happening. She went to her apartment and destroyed all of the letters and papers she had stored there. She also took all of the typewriters she had collected on which she had written her letters and disposed of them in various trash cans across the city.

Israel received only six months of house arrest and probation for her crimes. She seemed outraged when she discovered that people were still making money off selling her forged letters. Her outrage caused her to reach out to dealers when she saw one of her fakes among the items he was selling. Israel does indicate that she is sorry for what she did because she betrayed people she liked and found herself in a position where she was thought of badly because of her misdeeds. Israel did, however, get an honest job copyediting classroom magazines for scholastic.

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