With January soon upon us, seeing the recent film Can You Ever Forgive Me? was evoking a certain New York weekend to me more than anything with Sherlock Holmes in it. The endless parade of bookstores, bars, and restaurants setting the scenes of the film have been the sort of mainstays of every trip to the city I can remember. And also, that touch of sadness a Midwestern native can find in the idea of living in a crowded old metropolis.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is based on the life of Lee Israel, whose literary success and subsequent criminal failure seem very much life something many of our Sherlockian friends have the potential for, deep inside. And Israel's forgeries attempting to mimic Dorothy Parker take one back to the Algonquin Round Table, Christopher Morley, and the like, from an era many a Sherlockian have wanted to mimic over the years.
It's odd when something so completely non-Sherlockian evokes so much of one's Sherlockian life, as this movie did for me.
Even the scenes involving the stench of Israel's apartment, seemingly caused by a cat whose leavings were never cleaned up, reminded me of a Sherlockian we called "the cat man," whose massive book collection absorbed so much litter-box smell that a book from his house would have to spend at least a week in the garage to air out before it was in a state to read. Seeing the books lining the main character's apartment in that movie brought back some dreadful memories.
Oddly, for all the crime, alcoholism, and cat poo portrayed in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, there is a tone of sweetness there, and an empathy for those among us whose manner pushes people away at every turn . . . something else we are not unfamiliar with in Sherlockian circles. Ours is a community that shows kindness to the odd ducks, probably due to the fellow at the center of it all.
The title of the film Can You Ever Forgive Me? comes from something Lee Israel wrote while pretending to be Dorothy Parker, writing that she should have stationery printed up with the phrase, as often as it would come in handy. Sherlock Holmes might have done as well in getting some nice cards printed up for Watson, even though he never uses those exact words in asking Watson's forgiveness for Holmes's latest little betrayal.
And even that comes into play in the film, a bit of betrayal between friends. Sherlock-like? Maybe. But then again, when you're a Sherlockian, you tend to see a bit of your hobby everywhere, even in a movie that has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes.