Q & A WITH NINO RICCI
By LJ Gould
Nino Ricci was born in Leamington, Ontario, to parents from the Molise region of Italy, and completed university studies in Toronto, Montreal, and Florence, Italy. He has served as a writer-in-residence for the Toronto and Kitchener public library systems and for the University of Windsor, and has held the Mariano Elia Chair at York University, the Chair in Religion and the Arts at Assumption University, the G. M. Hopkins Chair in Literary Studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, the Killam Visiting Professorship in Canadian Studies at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and the Maclean Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Colorado College, Colorado Springs. He is also a past president of the Canadian Centre of International PEN, a writers’ human rights organization that works for freedom of expression.
In 2006 he was the inaugural winner of the Alistair MacLeod Award for Literary Achievement, and in 2010 received York University’s Pinnacle Achievement Award. In 2011 he was appointed a member of the Order of Canada.
Nino Ricci lives in Toronto with his wife, writer Erika de Vasconcelos, and their children.
Q. Having been born to Italian immigrant parents, clearly your Italian heritage has played a great role in, and had a tremendous influence on, your writing. Has being born in Leamington, Ontario, in Essex County, been an influence on your writing? Additionally, do you have any thoughts you’d care to share with us on the closure of Heinz in Leamington?
A. Leamington has appeared in some form in almost all of my books, and remains a place close to my heart. As a young man, of course, I couldn’t wait to leave it and explore the wider world, but you can’t ever truly leave behind the places that have formed you. On that note, I felt truly bereft at the news that Heinz was closing down, because it had so long been such a central part of Leamington’s identity.
Q. As the author of a biography of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, do you have any thoughts you’d care to share about Justin Trudeau perhaps one day becoming our Prime Minister?
A. I wish Justin every success, of course, but while I think his father would easily have put a bully like Harper in his place, I fear Justin is in for a bruising.
Q. Are you currently working on any projects?
A. I am working on a novel currently scheduled to come out in the fall of 2015, about someone going through the sort of catastrophic mid-life crisis that I myself hope to avoid.
Q. Might we one day expect another work featuring Vittorio Innocente?
A. I’m not sure I have the heart to call Vittorio out of literary retirement, or to face how he might have turned out.
Q. How important is a sense of humour to you, both in a novel (whether one you’re writing or reading) and in life?
A. I admit that some of my books have not exactly been laugh riots, and yet humour, ultimately, is what I strive for, both in fiction and in life, because it seems about all we have to keep us going.
Q. At BookFest Windsor 2014, you’ll be participating in A Tribute to the Life and Literary Legacy of Alistair MacLeod, sponsored by the City of Windsor’s Arts, Culture + Heritage Fund. And, among your many awards, you are the inaugural winner of the Alistair MacLeod Award for Literary Achievement (2006). Can you comment upon the influence of Dr. MacLeod?
A. Alistair Macleod’s influence has been enormous, both in Canada and abroad, and both through his writing and through his person. Many writers like me looked to his stories when we were starting out as models of what we aspired to in our own writing, and many writers like me were fortunate enough to have benefitted from his kindness and support. The Alistair MacLeod Award is one of the honours I’ve received that I am proudest of.
To learn more about author Nino Ricci, visit ninoricci.com