This was originally published on March 20, 2011.
Fans of New England politics will find it hard to resist "Politics and Pasta," the candid, blustering new memoir by Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr. After revitalizing Providence during more than 20 years as mayor, Buddy (as he is near universally known) went to federal prison on a racketeering conspiracy conviction in 2002. Since his release, he has become a popular talk radio host, and he's eligible to run for mayor again in 2012. He spoke to us from his home office in Providence.
What are you reading?
I'm reading John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's book "Game Change." It's well done. It documents that whole campaign, and if you're a political junkie like I am, you appreciate the topic.
I just finished "Mad as Hell," by Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen, about the Tea Party movement. Doug's a friend of mine. It was eye-opening. Maybe you wouldn't agree with it, but it lays out who these people are, why they're disgruntled.
Do you read mostly politics and history?
That's what I pay attention to. I just love it, and I read it.
What history do you read?
Over Christmas I finished "Mr. Citizen," by Harry Truman. He wrote it after he left office. David McCullough, I'm a fan of his. He's the best, no question. He writes in that little shed in the back of his house, over there on the island.
You write that you borrowed political biographies from the library even as a kid.
Yeah. The Arlington Library, right down the street. Cute little place. The first book I ever took out was about Fiorello LaGuardia. Ironically, when I got elected, I remember going to the Providence Public Library and getting out books on Fiorello LaGuardia. He's still an outstanding mayor in my eyes.
You mention that you read a lot of books in prison.
Hundreds. Probably over 400. I was there for almost five years, so I read a lot of books. It kind of made me escape - although if you use that word in prison, they'll put you in the hole.
On Saturday afternoons, if you're through writing your letters and there's nothing to do, you can lay in your bunk, or go outside and sit in the sun, and read. Before you know it, three hours have gone by. You'd be surprised how many prisoners read, and how knowledgeable they are.
You worked in the prison library, right?
I was like the celebrity host of the library. I would recommend a book, or check books out. It wasn't heavy lifting, but there was a lot of reading time.
What did people read?
It depended who they were. There were a lot of technical books - people were studying to become truck drivers or this or that. But they read a lot of novels: Ken Follett, all the modern authors. "Catch Me If You Can" - that was one they loved.
Did you like working in a library?
Yeah, I did. It sure beat the kitchen.
Is it similar to being mayor, do you think?
No. A little different from being mayor.
But hey, listen. I've been a college teacher, an Army officer, an Army enlisted man. I've been a prisoner, I've been mayor. I've had dinner in the White House, and I've also lived at Fort Dix. I've had a lot of different experiences. And I wouldn't trade one of them.
When I got to prison, I found I could adjust very well. It all depends on personality. I knew they couldn't offer me educational opportunities, but what I could do was read. And that's what got me through, reading and writing. That's what I did.