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s r picolli

BEING CONSERVATIVE FROM A TO Z

An interview with author S.R. Piccoli

Tell us about yourself (short biography) and how many books you have written.

I was born on Maddalena Island - one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean - off the northeast coast of Sardinia. But my origins are elsewhere. My mother was born in Philadelphia, though her family were from Liguria in northwest Italy, and my father is from Treviso in the northeast. When I was still a baby my family moved to Rome, where I grew up and went to school. After studying political science for two years at the University of Rome, I moved to Treviso, and I has lived and worked there since. I studied philosophy at the University of Venice, receiving a doctor degree in Philosophy in 1975. 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. I wrote three books so far, two in English and one in Italian. I live in the Venice area with my wife,  my daughter,  and our dog, a Golden Retriever that swims like a fish and is crazy about tennis balls. I am the owner of a blog called Wind Rose Hotel (www.windrosehotel.com).

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

My latest book is entitled Being Conservative from A to Z: An Anthology and Guide for Busy Conservative-Minded People. It 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. 

What authors, or books have influenced you?
Speaking about literature—poetry, drama, the novel—my favorite are the classics: true food for the soul, they never disappoint you, they never waste your time. To mention just a few: 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.

I also 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).

You said you are a blogger, why do you blog, and what do you write about on your blog?

I blog because it is a unique opportunity to exercise one’s right of free expression. Because I can write exactly what I want to write without any sort of interference, and there are people who are interested in what I write and nobody has ever told them that they are obliged to read my posts. It’s an experience of freedom—one of the most effective examples of having freedom at your finger tips.

On my blog, I write about almost everything that comes to my mind…, a lot of things ranging from philosophical, political and social issues to art, literature, history, religion, and personal life experiences.

What are you reading now?

I’m rereading some of Thomas Merton’s works.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a book on Thomas Merton—which is also the reason why I’m rereading his works.

Do you think the world has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come?

Our best is yet to come, I presume.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?

“Consider your origin; you were not born to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.” (Dante Alighieri)

What do you consider the most important personal quality?

Loyalty and integrity.

What is the best novel you've ever read?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

What is your favorite poem?

Dante’s Divina Commedia.

What is your favorite movie?
 

Rio Bravo, by Howard Hawks.

Who is your favorite composer? |

J.S. Bach.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

Riding.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be?

Michel de Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Dalai Lama.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? 

“A man,” in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.”

Who are your three political heroes of all time?

Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

What is your favorite piece of political wisdom?

One of my favorites of all time is this one by Niccolò Machiavelli: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

Do you have any advice for new authors?

Be yourself. This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson explains why: “The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity. The inventor did it, because it was natural to him, and so in him it has a charm. In the imitator, something else is natural, and he bereaves himself of his own beauty, to come short of another man’s.”

To conclude, ask yourself a question and give yourself an answer.

Question: Rob, what animal would you most like to be? Answer: A seagull. I like the way seagulls fly as much as I love some of their typical habitats—such as, for instance, the Cliff of Moher in Ireland and the Côte Sauvage in Brittany. Moreover I love the sea, any time, in any season, in any latitude, as every seagull is supposed to do.

Read excerpts from the book Being Conservative from A to Z


 

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