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Letters to My Children by [Bittner, Russell]
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Letters to My Children Kindle Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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About the Author

Russell's work has been published multiple times both in print and on the WorldWideWeb. If you're at all curious, just give a little Google to "Russell Bittner."

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2735 KB
  • Print Length: 474 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008GFY3XQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #670,830 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author quotes another writer, Raymond Carver, expressing his feelings about his own life as he trudges from one failed relationship to another, one dead-end job to another, one temporary home to another. The single positive in his life is his two children.

In the richest country in the world an educated, cultured man lives on the verge of destitution as the American economy collapses. His means are so meagre that he cannot afford to buy his children presents for their birthdays or Christmas. I found this a shocking eye-opener.

This collection of letters to his children, written each year from their birth until they reached the age of 18, is his gift to them, to be read by them when they have turned 18. These are not pink fluffy bunny notes, but lengthy letters written over several days, and sometimes weeks, as one adult to another, charting their development, their achievements, his pride in them and hopes for them, as well as his own failings, disappointments, despair and occasional small triumphs.
Both children enjoy a close and loving bond with their father as he strives to maintain daily contact with them and offer them a father's support, encouragement and advice. It is only towards the very end that a slight hint of discord appears, and I am left wondering how the relationship between father and children will progress in the future as the children become adults.

Elegantly written with brutal honesty, I found this a fascinating read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't know what's wrong with America. I don't know what's wrong with American literature and publishing. If this isn't to be recognised as one of the most unique and exceptional publications available today, the whole literary world must have gone blind. This will, or should be, a respected literary classic of tomorrow, an essential for every student and every aspirant - a history of the life we live in, the pains and aches that go with modern living - especially for those who have an imperative to write. That is not an imperative to be recognised, to earn riches, to feed off the material excesses of society, but to write as an innate compulsion that defines who we are and records it for the whole of humanity.
This book is primarily a testament to the incredible and limitless love of a father for the two children he has had to leave through his own folly. Though he no longer lives under one roof with them, they are in his thoughts for what would appear to be every hour of every day and he compensates by writing letters they won't read until each one of them is eighteen. Wisely so, as these are not letters for children. For a start, they are too full of pain, his pain that is forever compounded by the fact he lives with one finger always on the self-destruct button. And there are too many confessions, some best kept private; things that don't need to be told. We don't have to eviscerate ourselves to our kids.
He is forever in and out of work, one has to presume because the triviality of many of his jobs would try the patience of a saint, let alone a man with a huge intellect whose mind must never rest. He likes a smoke, can't live without one, and two fingers of fine brandy - for starters.
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Format: Paperback
LETTERS TO MY CHILDREN by Russell Bittner

Book Review by Michael H. Hanson

In this digital day and age of the rapidly prepped e-mail, hasty cell phone voicemail, and frenetic tweet (where brobdingnagian thumbs type cyber acronym code on hand-held Androids to an alarming extent), it is more than a little refreshing to discover that the art of the composed missive is alive and well.

Covering a span of over twenty years, LETTERS TO MY CHILDREN is an articulate and insightful non-fiction collection of heartfelt confessions, fatherly observations, philosophical lessons, and professions of parental love that will affect the soul of even the most intractable personality. Told with an almost lyrical assurance (not too surprising as the author is a practiced and peripatetic poet in his own right) each of these familial epistles opens a transitory doorway to our own innate humanity. And no, you won't always be happy with its reflections.

Espousing neither the inspired, self-assured tutorials of Rainer Maria Rilke's LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET, or the angst-ridden condemnation of Franz Kafka's LETTER TO MY FATHER, Bittner's LETTERS is a humble tour de force of focused living narrative that never quite strays to the inherent pithiness of such haunting collections as Andrew Carroll's WAR LETTERS or Clinton Frederick's WWII: A LEGACY OF LETTERS. Bittner's axe is a much more finely honed device that is all too well appreciated by any member of society's numerous disintegrating nuclear families.

The breakup of the family unit is a destructive process on many levels, affecting both parent and child in numerous ways and the fact that this reality is now viewed by many as approaching some kind of frightfully complacent norm makes it just that much more unsettling.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a wonderful, unique chronicle of the life of a family whose parents separated but whose father devoted much of his life and thought to his son and daughter. Primarily it is the story of his relationship with them from the birth of his son to his daughter's 21st birthday. Bittner's commitment to his decision to write to each child every year on his/her birthday is so admirable and it's a labour that produces for them a permanent (if incomplete) portrait of himself, his relationship with them, the ups and downs of their family's unfortunate history and, most important for them, his feelings for and belief in them. His pessimistic outlook (for himself) makes life harder for him but his survival seems more remarkable because of it and his almost continual optimism and support for his children inspires. This is real life, with something of Steinbeck in the surviving of life's hardships, even while these are to a degree self-created...in that sense Bittner is a Shakespearean tragic figure whose endurance counts as his redemption. The writing is always a pleasure to read, more so when you realise it is part of, or a reflection of, the childrens education.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 13 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Father Writes 20 Sept. 2012
By Joseph S. Salemi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Russell Bittner's new book Letters to My Children is a labor of love--that is, the love that impels a parent to be deeply concerned for his children in all aspects of their lives. It's also an account of the ways in which a family can break down under the horrific pressures of modern urban existence.

Bittner is a Brooklyn poet, short-story writer, and essayist whose work has appeared in many venues. When his first child Christopher was born in 1991, Bittner resolved to write him a letter on that same day, and to continue doing so on every birthday until his son reached the age of eighteen. He followed the same plan when his daughter Alexandra was born three years later. And he has now collected the bulk of those letters and published them in this remarkable book, which he has offered as a tribute and a gift to both of them.

All the expected things are here: joy at their birth, delight in the phenomenon of their growth and learning, hope and worry for their future, the occasional friction of parent-child misunderstandings. But behind it all is a father's profound sense of awe at the miracle of his children. He is by turns surprised, delighted, dumbfounded, and upset by the ways in which they show themselves to be independent human beings, related to him by blood and affection but distinct from him in temperament and attitudes. Yet his love for them remains unchanged and strong, while his concern for them grows more intense as his marriage dissolves.

For this is also a book about the breakup of Bittner's marriage and the horrors of a modern divorce, where anger and acrimony tear a family apart. Bittner tries his best to explain to his children why this is happening, and he is unsparing in his honesty about himself and the personal failings that led to this nightmare. The book also reveals the terrible psychological and financial consequences of a bitter divorce, and how they punish everyone in a family with merciless force. Through it all, Bittner's words to his children try hard to maintain some degree of fairness, tolerance, moderation, and understanding, even when his dispute with his wife reaches the boiling point.

Despite an array of misfortunes--loss of his property and savings, the end of his well-paid career, near homelessness on occasion--Bittner remains focused on Chris and Alex. They are the lights of his increasingly darkened life. He tries to remain close to them regardless of the unrelenting hostility of his ex-wife and the crushing difficulty of trying to support himself in some meaningful way. And he keeps his sanity, intelligence, and good humor where weaker men would have collapsed under the strain.

Letters to My Children can be painful reading at times. But the book is also an affirmation of the unflagging love that a real parent has for his flesh and blood. It is deeply moving in places, and has the kind of emotional honesty that can wring a reader's heart. Bittner has written the book as a gift to his children, in lieu of the many tangible goods that he is no longer in a position to provide for them. I can think of no greater manifestation of fatherly love than this gripping book of letters. They tell not just of Bittner and his travails, but of the heartbreak and ruin that divorce has brought to far too many Americans.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letters to My Children by Russell Bittner 21 Aug. 2012
By Lucinda Gavrielatos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are confessions in Letters to My Children that children should not read or know. As I read some of these confessions from a father to his two children, I cringed. I found many of the personal revelations sad and distasteful. At times, I didn't feel much empathy for this man's behavior that he admits he won't control. Addictions (sexual, alcohol, nicotine) abound. Betrayals of spouses and girlfriends abound. Locales, languages, intellect--but also the lack of steady work and a lot of hubris abound. It's almost enough to make one drop the book like a hotcake, but there is something deeper afoot than public revelation of private travail. These letters, written in journal-like entries to each of Bittner's two children during their birthday month every year were meant for the children when they turned eighteen. The letters are this father's attempt--a man who admits he is more comfortable with the words "I love you" on paper--to explain himself to his children and to love them in the way he is most comfortable--namely, in words.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bittner loves his two children. His personal behaviors were often alarming but his act of writing detailed letters to each child chronicling their lives together (and separated from each other ) is a wonder--and redeems him. Honest to a fault, he doesn't sugarcoat his many flaws. Most importantly, he owns them. E.g., "I also need to get a job--any job--to pay my bills as normal, responsible adults do every day of their lives. Perhaps one or all of these would be the best birthday present I could give you. Quite frankly, the challenge frightens me. And in my fear, I realize how weak I am. How I go into every night with rage, but also with a profound fear. Of what, I don't know exactly. I should know that at the age of almost fifty-two, don't you think?" From letter of November 22, 2002, to Chris, (age ten, but who read this only once he'd turned eighteen).

I saw my own father no more than a half dozen times in my life. My father, too, was a troubled man--a paranoid schizophrenic who ended his life when I was fifteen. In hindsight, I understand my mother's reasons for keeping me from him, but his absence seared. Like Bittner, my father was a poet and a writer, albeit a failed one. His mother kept his journals, letters, stories and poems. One of his poems was written while he was housed in the East Louisiana State Hospital (Mandeville) psych ward. In the letter he sent to his mother, he said he'd written the poem for her, but also for my mother and me--and he hoped we'd be pleased. Those few words and a couple of mentions of me in his diary are the only precious proof I have of his flawed love.

Bittner has left thousands of words and notes for his two children, Alex and Chris, as proof of his devotion. They are lucky children. This book is an act not of public revelation, but of private revelation from a troubled dad who amidst his turbulent seas still writes to and for his children of his enduring if imperfect love.

Interestingly, the pages of this book are not numbered. How could they be? Russell is a father forever after his children's hearts. Bravo, Russell. I'd give the world to have been given such a gift from my own dad.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the era of "end of prosperity and well-being",books like this one, compose -apart from a literary- a social contribution also 13 Dec. 2012
By kate papas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The title -at least for me- appeared to be of utmost interest: "Letters to My Children". Didn't I too, have a notebook with letters to my own children, from the time they were still babies, hidden and lost somewhere?
Right after reading the book's description, I couldn't help experiencing a tiny stitch of envy: After all, there existed someone, what's more a man, who apart from the original concept, additionally had the patience, the persistence and -most importantly- the commitment to write epistles to both of his children, on their birthdays' occasion!

"It must be a father's advice towards his offspring. An adult's wisdom-extract, aiming to engrave in his children's mind (those creatures that many among as consider as "tabula rasa") numerous ideals, values and ideas. Probably instructive, moralistic -constructive at best" I presumed.
But, since the motive was a "sacred" one -you don't give birth to children just to abandon them to their fate- I decided to read it.

To be honest, in the past I had already read a short story ("In the Animal Kingdom") by Russell Bittner and I was enthusiastic about it. Thus, I based all of my hopes upon the fact that such a gifted and sensitive writer, if not anything else, would have invented an intelligent and attractive way to persuade his descendants about all -of his choice- life lessons.

I was right! Russell Bittner's way is unique. The writer possesses the art of narrating, he's aware of the specific weight of words; in short, he knows how to fluently and effectively communicate, in written speech.
Where I completely failed, as far as my prognostics are concerned, was the content of those letters: "Moralistic"? "An adult's wisdom-extract"?

Anything else but that. This book is the written testimony of selfless love, without any trace of didacticism or manipulation: by the more aged to the younger, by the connoisseur towards the novice. Even more, what it all boils down to -and this is the Big Surprise- "Letters to My Children" is a baring of the soul, an acceptance of personal faults; the defeat of a man in almost every field: professional, conjugal, romantic, financial.

How many men, I wonder, would have the courage to proceed with such revelations, even less towards those special creatures who -a priori- they are supposed to convince of their perfection?
No matter the usual phrase "Parents are also humans." This is the theory. In reality, one has to be most generous, mature and strong, in order to admit both his weaknesses and mistakes.

Finally, one needs to be very courageous, in order to dare debunking themselves, especially towards their children.
But, if those children are wise and sensitive enough to get the parental message, then we are talking about a new kind of parent-child relationship. A relationship based on equality, abolished "authorities" and "ignorant", perfect and im-perfect people. A relationship opening the door to substantial human communication -away from hypocrisy and useless rules, to which no one is willing -any more- to bow to.

"Qui risque, gagne" as said by the French. Russell Bittner has risked -and won. And I dare say "won" because in my eyes - at least- since he admits his weaknesses, he is automatically transformed into a creature of strength, worth admiring, absolutely loveable.
He is lucky enough -or is it just a matter of genes? - to have two kids (those that his letters are addressed to) able to both distinguish and love without terms.

Coming to an end, I'd like to underline that "Letters to My Children", apart from the literary delight they offered me, during the time I was reading them, they made me think about my position and my role, as a mother. They impelled me to recall my own errors and defeats. They hurt me, they puzzled me, while giving me food for thought, in the long run.

In the era of "end of prosperity and well-being", thus in times of returning to the essence of things, everything mentioned above, can be considered a priceless gift. What's more, books like this one compose -apart from a literary- a social contribution also.

For all these reasons, I apologize for my initial skepticism, I put aside any feeling of ... jealousy, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank The Writer!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars “I made a wasteland of everything I touched” 15 Nov. 2013
By Swizzlestick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
The author quotes another writer, Raymond Carver, expressing his feelings about his own life as he trudges from one failed relationship to another, one dead-end job to another, one temporary home to another. The single positive in his life is his two children.

In the richest country in the world an educated, cultured man lives on the verge of destitution as the American economy collapses. His means are so meagre that he cannot afford to buy his children presents for their birthdays or Christmas. I found this a shocking eye-opener.

This collection of letters to his children, written each year from their birth until they reached the age of 18, is his gift to them, to be read by them when they have turned 18. These are not pink fluffy bunny notes, but lengthy letters written over several days, and sometimes weeks, as one adult to another, charting their development, their achievements, his pride in them and hopes for them, as well as his own failings, disappointments, despair and occasional small triumphs.

Both children enjoy a close and loving bond with their father as he strives to maintain daily contact with them and offer them a father’s support, encouragement and advice. It is only towards the very end that a slight hint of discord appears, and I am left wondering how the relationship between father and children will progress in the future as the children become adults.

Elegantly written with brutal honesty, I found this a fascinating read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letters to My Children by Russell Bittner 17 Sept. 2012
By Nonnie Augustine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Letters to My Children
by Russell Bittner

Russell Bittner wrote one letter to his son, Chris, and one to his daughter, Alex, as each child's new birthday approached, but they did not receive any of their letters until they turned 18, when they were given the lot. With permission from his children, the letters were collected and published, along with exquisite photographs, in Letters to My Children in June, 2012.

I was fascinated by these chronicles, recounted in a loving father's voice, of Chris and Alex's milestones, mishaps and triumphs, and by the full-throttle reckoning of Mr. Bittner's life as he lived it, mostly in Brooklyn, during those 18 years. Because the author is a fine writer who is ruthlessly honest with and about himself, the letters give us an authentic family--hits, misses (divorce) and all. Bittner has years when things went badly amiss and my heart ached for him, but I admit there were times I wanted to take hold of the author's shoulders and shake them for all I was worth. But this is fine with me because as a reader I want to be stirred up, punched and pummeled, and touched by love. Russell Bittner invites us in, right in, to sit with the family in his remarkable collection of letters to his wise and tender children.

Nonnie Augustine
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