Welcome to the fabulous lifestyles of the cruel and despotic. Running with the idea that our homes are where we are truly ourselves, Peter York's wildly original and scathingly funny look at the interior decorating tastes of some of history's most alarming dictators proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes. Mining rare, jaw-dropping photographs of interiors now mostly (thankfully) destroyed, York's hilarious profiles of 16 inner sanctums of the scary leaves no endangered tiger pelt unturned, from Saddam Hussein's creepy private art collection to General Noriega's Christmas tree to the strange tube and knob contraption in the Ceausescu bathroom. All your favorite dictators are here: Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Tito, Mussolini, Mobutu, Idi Amin, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos—each with their own uniquely frightful chic. An interior decorating book like no other, Dictator Style is a welcome tonic for a world in need of a good laugh at the expense of the all-powerful.
Date Published 6/1/2006
Rated By: Neurasthenic "neurasthenic"
From: New York City, New York
Comments: Enjoyable text, disappointing photos I purchased this book expecting it would be mostly a collection of outrageous photos, perhaps with captions explaining their subjects and provenance. Instead, the book comprises no more than 50% photos of varying quality (with a fair amount of stretching -- some photos appear more than once), the rest being Peter York's, snarky, well-researched text.
Many of the photos are of poor quality. In some cases, this probably could not be helped; they looked to have been copied from poorly printed originals, with misaligned color plates and the kind of oversaturation one associates with early color print publications of the mid-20th century. In other cases, the photos were clearly copied from websites and blown up much too large; the digital compression artifacts are obvious and distracting. Both problems could have been reduced if the publisher had hired a digital photo guru to color correct, sharpen, etc., though even that would not have resulted in great images.
York's text, on the other hand, is perfectly enjoyable, drawing out the design schemes common to dictators in the 20th century, mocking them by comparison to the decorating conventions in council flats, and so forth. In every case, he provides capsule biographies of the dictators and, at the end of the book, reiterates them. I appreciated these and thought they were well written.
The book should have two stars for the pictures, four stars for the text. I'm calling it three stars overall.