There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Everybody talks about the banality of evil, but what about the evil of banality? That none of the deposed despots in Italian journalist Riccardo Orizio’s Talk of the Devil: Encounters With Seven Dictators have anything interesting to say isn’t particularly surprisingfor what could be duller than a politician defending his or her track record? Face it, the odds of Idi Amin saying, “Yeah, I was a butchering psychopath who ate people” are right up there with George W. Bush announcing, “I’d have gladly kept partying ’til my head blew up, if Daddy hadn’t told me to be president.” No, the real evil of this book is that, while it seems to offer straight talk from some of the worst humans of our timesincluding Central Africa’s Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Haiti’s Jean-Claude Duvalier, and Albania’s Nexhmije Hoxha, among othersit delivers so little. Orizio’s concept#to track down fallen tyrants and grill themis sound; trouble is, even fallen tyrants have agendas, and they rarely involve frank discussion of their crimes against humanity. As a result, Orizio’s essays are little more than sensationalistic (if interesting) buildups to interviews that are brief, guarded, and offer little of substance to our knowledge of the subjects. In addition, several of the interviews are not with the former rulers themselves, but with their significant others. What you’re left with is a book thatlike Idi Amin proclaiming himself the Last King of Scotlandisn’t what it pretends to be. Orizio speaks at 7 p.m. Friday, May 30, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Mike Little)