In particular, I've immersed myself in 'Ever, Dirk', a volume of Dirk Bogarde's correspondence edited by John Coldstream, the author of a superlative biography of Bogarde published a few years ago.
Bogarde's seven volumes of autobiography, while elegant and sumptuously readable, are pretty much an act of obfuscation on his part. An earlier volume of letters, 'A Particular Friendship', published in his lifetime, was - how shall we say? - selective. 'Ever, Dirk' provides an interesting counterpoint to these works and functions, with a few references back to Coldstream's book for purposes of clarification, as the closest Bogarde ever came to a completely unfettered autobiographical account.
By turns waspish, witty, generous and judgemental, the letters reveal Bogarde as multi-faceted, changeable, controversial (anyone with an abiding sense of political correctness would be advised to steer clear) and complicated. In other words, human.
His deplorable grasp of spelling and total non-conformism in the face of grammar (his published works were professionally retyped with an eye to eradicating these offences) grate for the first few pages, but soon provide a pleasing sense of idiosyncracy. It's as if the imperfections put the reader closer to the real Bogarde.
'Ever, Dirk' is a fascinating and, in its closing pages, profoundly poignant book. Accordingly, the next week or so will be given over to The Second Annual Dirk-Fest, kicking off with one of his most controversial appearances ...