Ever wished you were part of the Soprano family? Ever wanted to live out the so-called “mobster’s life?” Well, according to Jay Parini, we are all Sopranos, but he has been writing about Italian-American issues long before the TV show became a hit.

Jay Parini, an established poet, novelist, biographer, and professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, spoke Monday evening in the library about his works and the topics they convey. Many of Parini’s works deal with Italian-American issues with one exception, the biography of Robert Frost for which Parini won The Chicago Tribune’s esteemed Heartland Prize in 2000.

Parini’s most recent book, “The Apprentice Lover,” is what he considered a “shadow biography” of his own life and his involvement with Italian-American experience.

Although most critics feel the show The Sopranos represents Italian-Americans in a violent and unbecoming way, Parini told listeners that he believes people in our society should have the intelligence to see the comedic and entertaining aspects of the show, rather than believing every Italian in America lives the lives depicted on the show.

Parini took an interesting stand on the topic and considered the characters of the Sopranos to be “a mirror of all American society.” Parini, who is Italian-American, feels that everyone sees a little of themselves in the characters of the Sopranos.

Parini began his talk by reading from “The Apprentice Lover.” The section he read concerned the guilt that the main character felt for traveling back to Italy since his ancestors struggled to leave Italy a mere five generations before him in search of a better life. Along with many other issues, one of the major themes of his book is breaking away from the past.

Parini concluded his lecture by reading several poems that dealt with topics ranging from growing up in the coal-mining district of Pennsylvania as a child, the life, hopes, and dreams of his Italian grandmother, and his thoughts on our nation’s current situation with Iraq.

The advice Parini gave to aspiring writers was simple. “Think about where you dream about, listen to your inner writers voice,” and, most importantly, “keep thinking, keep reading, and write, write, write.”

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