Sunday, August 3, 2008

Louise Brooks and forged letters

There have been a lot of articles popping up regarding Lee Israel's new book, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Memoirs of a Literary Forger. One of the best articles / reviews I read was by Thomas Mallon. It appeared in the New York Times on August 3rd. I recommend reading it. And what's more, two of the illustrations accompanying the article relate to Louise Brooks.

As some readers of this blog may know, Lee Israel is a noted journalist and biographer. [I own a copy of her Tallulah Bankhead biography.] When she fell on hard times some years back, she turned to stealing the letters of famous individuals from archives and libraries, whcih she sold, as well as forging letters from other subjects of interest (which she also sold). Apparently, Israel was very good at what she did. A couple of her Noel Coward letters were even included in a recently published collection of the British authro's correspondence.

Among the letters Israel forged and sold where some from Louise Brooks. I haven't read this new book yet, but from all the coverage its getting, I gather that Israel's forgeries of Brooks' letters play a significant part in her story. The name of the actress also appears, obliquely, on the cover of the book.

[This bit of literary intrigue reminds me that I had once heard that shortly after Louise Brooks' death, a number of fake signatures ascribed to the actress came on the market. Signed books, signed pictures, etc.... I wonder what ever became of them. Buyer beware.]

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