Anyone for Melissa McCarthy playing a serious role? Oh come on, you’ll love it!
Most of us started out as frustrated writers, doing our best to publish anything just so we could finally proclaim, “I am now a writer.” I know I struggled mightily as a freelance writer before I realized the dilemma before me. Everyone said I needed to “find my voice” but that could not happen as a freelance writer, when every editor was changing my pieces to their voice! It finally drove me so crazy that I started a blog over ten years ago… but back to Lee Israel’s dilemma.
Lee Israel “made it” as a celebrity biographer in the 1970s and 80s. In 1991, she was 52 and ready to write her next book when her agent, played wonderfully by Jane Curtain, informed her that nobody wanted to read her books anymore. To me, her dilemma was the classic writer midlife crisis story. Israel’s life collapsed around her. She went on welfare, and found herself unable to pay a $40 vet bill for her beloved cat Doris. Desperate for any kind of income, she stole several letters from an archive at the New York Library for the Performing Arts, hiding them in her shoe. She sold them to a rare book store for $40 each and later claimed she felt no guilt about the act, as the letters “were from the realm of the dead – Doris and I were alive”. That way of thinking describes Lee’s character to a T.
Yes, she got caught after a few years and suffered for her crime, but I so understood her desperation as a writer today. Who is reading books anymore? Who is spending time thinking about anything for more than a millisecond? We live in the land of the permanently distracted now and it’s only getting worse.
Lee was one tough old introvert writer. She later wrote Can You Ever Forgive Me?, her fourth and final book, while working as a copy editor for Scholastic magazines. The memoir was a defiant statement, although the sincerity of her appeal for forgiveness remained much in doubt. She wrote at the end: “I still consider the letters to be my best work.”