Featured Interview With Samuel Robert Piccoli
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was born the 13th November, 1950 on the Island of Maddalena—one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean—off the northeast coast of Sardinia. But my origins are nuanced. My mother—an American citizen, although her family was originally from Liguria in northwest Italy—was born in Philadelphia, PA, and my father was born near Treviso, in the northeast of Italy.
When I was very young my family moved to Rome, where I first went to school. After attending Classical High School, I studied political science for two years at theSapienza University of Rome. I then moved to Treviso, where I eventually settled.
From 1972 to 1975 I attended the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where I graduated with a doctor’s degree in philosophy under Professor Emanuele Severino. I also studied English at San Francisco State University in 1980.
I have been a High School teacher of History and Italian almost all my working life. Now that I have retired, I can finally spend more time doing what I love most: writing.
In my Twitter profile I describe myself as “European by birth, American by philosophy,” which after all is quite an accurate description. Perhaps it also supports the adage that brevity is the soul of wit.
I live in the Venice area with my wife, Clara, my daughter, Benedetta, and our dog, Lady, a golden retriever that swims like a fish and is crazy about tennis balls.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read. Likewise, I was an avid writer from the time I was a young child.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I love a lot of writers, but I must say that I am not a very big reader… I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wish I was, and I enjoy the work of so many writers, but, if we talk about literature, broadly, the time is the problem, because I read a lot of non-fiction. It is, so to speak, a matter of priority: first duty, then pleasure—first understanding the world we live in, its divisions and conflicts, its past, present, and future, then enjoying a fascinating story, a great book. Perhaps that’s also why I prefer to spend my limited free time with the classics: true food for the soul, they never disappoint you, they never waste your time. My favorites are Dante, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Alessandro Manzoni, Herman Melville, Thomas Mann. Among the contemporaries I admire Thomas Merton, Umberto Eco, Dan Brown, and Valerio Massimo Manfredi.
Yet, as I previously said, I read a huge number of non-fiction books (philosophy, history, politics, theology, biographies, autobiographies…). My favorite authors range from classics such as Plato, Augustine of Hippo, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Burke, Tocqueville, and of course Ralph Waldo Emerson—perhaps the most influential on my thinking—to contemporary authors/thinkers such as Russell Kirk, Bernard Lewis, Roger Scruton, George Weigel, and Alain Finkielkraut, to mention just a few.
I am deeply inspired by the authors I mentioned above when I write, but I don’t try to emulate them, basically because most of them are such giants that it would be foolish to expect any success in such a venture, but also—if not mostly—because of Emerson’s warning: “Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him” (Self-Reliance).
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest book, Being Conservative from A to Z: An Anthology and Guide for Busy Conservative-Minded People, could be described as an anthology of conservative analysis and insights on some key issues. It’s a book for readers who wish to acquaint themselves with conservative political thought and to get a critical and comparative perspective on what passes for political, social, economic, and cultural conservatism in their own time and place. The book is intended for both European and American readers. It provides readings from European and American thinkers, which besides may help to call attention to some of the peculiarities of American conservatives, who, for instance, believe in Progress even more than liberals do. Last but not least, as the subtitle reads, this volume wants to be a teaching tool and a guide “for busy conservative-minded people,” even though I must confess that I don’t know what “busy people”—whether conservative-minded or not—exactly means… Be it as it may, despite its brevity and modesty, I hope this book, will lead readers to a greater appreciation of conservative values and principles. After all, as we all know, the ways of the Lord are mysterious.
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