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Dictator Style

Updated on July 5, 2010

This is a weird little book I picked up at random in a Border's bargain bin. But don't let that scare you off, as "Dictator Style" is worth every penny as one of the oddest but also most entertaining concepts for a book I've ever heard.

Written by British journalist and fashion guru Peter York, "Dictator Style" takes a look at pictures of the interiors of various world dictators' homes, offices and palaces and really exposes the terrible decorating ideas that can result from having an ego the size of your Mercedes collection, the budget of your entire country to spend, and no one to tell you no. If that sounds glib, the book actually is rather restrained in that respect: York is very careful to show how each despot's cruel tyranny can be seen in how they ran  their lives, from the kleptocratic Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos' piles upon piles of useless stuff, to self-absorbed Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini both possessing gigantic paintings of themselves that they kept in their offices, to ostentatious Saddam Hussein's eye-wateringly bad  collection of Frank Frazetta knockoff paintings.

That said, "Dictator Style" is very funny. York is able to turn even the most terrifying genocidal maniac into a pathetic loser ripe for ridicule, and this makes each dictator both more comprehensible as a person and siginficantly less terrifying. It is really interesting to see what happens when a person is allowed to do whatever they want, and what they do with that power.

The pictures are wonderful as well. Although York sometimes appears to be looking at the same scene from a different perspective (mentioning things that fall just out of frame), and the pictures are often not quite in the same order as York addresses them, it is really amazing that the people who made this book were able to get their hands on pictures that so well document the interior lives of so many of these powerful people who mostly came to various grisly ends. It helps with the rest of the book, trying to get into the heads of these strange strange people.

All in all, I really like this book, and if you happen upon it I suggest you snap it up as quick as you can. It is a fun and very interesting read, and I recommend it highly.

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