When I was a kid, I read this lousy “unauthorized” biography of Esteé Lauder. I remember thinking it was poorly written and disorganized. I was maybe 11, so what did I know.
Turns out, the Lauder bio was written by a woman named Lee Israel. She was a fraud, a sham, and a liar — and apparently (though it didn’t show through in her “real” work) a pretty convincing author.
After Israel’s Lauder book failed, she took to forging letters from well known authors. She was eventually caught and convicted, but not after amassing quite a cache of letters from at least five different “authors.”
The letters are collected in the new book Can You Ever Forgive Me? out recently from Simon & Schuster [click here to see the book on Amazon], and reviewed in The New York Times [click here to read the review].
What’s particularly interesting about the book is that many of the letters hail from Rochester. 7 North Goodman Street, to be exact (above). The irony here is that there is no 7 North Goodman Street in Rochester, NY. She also used ZIP codes on letters dated before ZIP codes were in use. So, clever she may have been, but just not too clever.