About mini reviews:
Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .
In the early 1990s, best-selling — but now irrelevant — biographer Lee Israel finds herself running out of money. She’s never held a real job, being able to support herself with writing for quite a time, and so working like a joe-schmoe just isn’t for her. Instead, she starts forging letters by old-timey famous actors and writers, such as Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward. Able to keep the ruse up for almost two years, Israel then is finally caught by the FBI and given probation.
Watching the 2018 film starring Melissa McCarthy, I felt a great sense of story, emotion, desperation, and examination of human complexity. It made sense that in 2019 at the Academy Awards, Can You Ever Forgive Me? was up for best supporting actor, best lead actress, and best writing for a screenplay adaption. The memoir, however, fell flat.
Instead of writing herself as a complex person the way the screenwriter did, Israel makes herself sound like a forgetful, dumpy jerk — which is fine, expect she doesn’t explore the root or motive of these behaviors. Rather than digging into the heart of her circumstances and time in forgery, which would include how she felt about what she was doing and her feelings for the buyers and dealers she manipulated, we mostly get copies of the letters she forged. Since I listened to the audiobook, read by Jane Curtain of Conehead fame, I didn’t know that the paperback version of Can You Ever Forgive Me? includes the forged letters as they looked when Israel sold them to dealers. It’s a neat addition to the physical book, but wouldn’t save the lack of depth.
There are other issues, such as Curtain’s voice suddenly growing louder, hurting my ears. Audio mixing to create balance is important! And there’s that one moment when Israel proclaims checking in with her parole officer in a room full of other parolees sounds like [insert the n-word six times]. . . Necessary, or is she a nasty person sneaking in the opportunity to use racial slurs?
Verdict? Not recommended in audiobook or paperback form.