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Big Russ and Me, Father and Son: Lessons of Life Hardcover – May 10, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

Veteran newsman and Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert is known for his direct and unpretentious style and in this charming memoir he explains why. Russert's father is profiled as a plainspoken World War II veteran who worked two blue-collar jobs while raising four kids in South Buffalo but the elder Russert's lessons on how to live an honest, disciplined, and ethical life are shown to be universal. Big Russ and Me, a sort of Greatest Generation meets Tuesdays with Morrie, could easily have become a sentimental pile of mush with a son wistfully recalling the wisdom of his beloved dad. But both Russerts are far too down-to-earth to let that happen and the emotional content of the book is made more direct, accessible, and palatable because of it. The relationship between father and son, contrary to what one would think of as essential to a riveting memoir, seems completely healthy and positive as Tim, the academically gifted kid and later the esteemed TV star and political operative relies on his old man, a career sanitation worker and newspaper truck driver, for advice. Big Russ and Me also traces Russert's life from working-class kid to one of broadcast journalism's top interviewers by introducing various influential figures who guided him along the way, including Jesuit teachers, nuns, his dad's drinking buddies, and, most notably, the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whom Russert helped get elected in 1976. Plenty of entertaining anecdotes are served up along the way from schoolyard pranks to an attempt to book Pope John Paul II on the Today Show. Though not likely to revolutionize modern thought, Big Russ and Me will provide fathers and sons a chance to reflect on lessons learned between generations. --Charlie Williams

From Publishers Weekly

Meet the newsman's father in this stupendously entertaining book. The senior Tim Russert served in WWII, married and settled in South Buffalo, N.Y., worked days for the Sanitation Department, drove a night truck for the local evening paper and raised four kids. The younger Russert's memoir begins as a tribute to his dad and the lessons he taught through the years, but also takes ample time to tell how Russert junior grew up and became the moderator of Meet the Press. His neighborhood in the 1950s was tightly knit, Irish Catholic and anchored by the institutions of marriage, family, church and school. Nuns and Legionnaires shaped young Russert's character; in high school, his Jesuit instructors strengthened and solidified it. John Kennedy's short life and career still resonated when Russert began law school in 1970. He worked on Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 1976 campaign, then on the senator's staff. A friend of Moynihan provided the link that brought Russert to NBC and the Today show. He first appeared as a panelist on Meet the Press in 1990, becoming moderator in 1991. Throughout his private and public life, Russert continually turned to his father for advice, and the older man's common sense served the younger pretty much without fail. The memoir is candid and generous, so warm-hearted that readers should forgive the occasional didactic touch (and it's a soft touch). There are hard ways to learn life lessons; fortunately, readers have Russert to thank for sharing his with them. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax Books; 1st edition (May 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401352081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401352080
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 182 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tim Russert died unexpectedly on Friday, June 13, 2008. He was beloved by many and respected by many. He was one of the few political reporters that I believe gave us both sides of the story. He always spoke with eloquence and intelligence, and when he spoke, we listened.

"People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad." ~Marcel Proust

We all know Tim Russert as the moderator of "Meet the Press", and now we meet Tim Russert, son of Big Russ. Tim Russert tells the story of growing up in Buffalo, and how he grew to be the man he is today has much to do with the father he idolizes. His father is his hero. This is a story of love, family love, religious love, love of sports, love of people and love of life.

Much of this book has to do with the lessons learned at the knee of Big Russ. Big Russ was a hard worker- he loved his family, a wife and four children. Big Russ learned his love of life in the Army. He was in World War II and was badly injured in a plane accident. Big Russ learned valuable lessons that day- he was saved from certain death by another soldier who threw caution to the wind to save his brother soldier. Big Russ is a reticent man who does not talk much about his experiences, as is common with WWII soldiers. It took Tim Russert many years to learn about his dad and about his experiences in the Army. Tim Russert once said the person he most wanted to interview was his own dad!

Tim Russert had an idyllic childhood, but it was not an easy life. He worked hard at school and hard at home.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By AvgMom2 on June 13, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book a while ago, meaning to read it one-of-these-days. It broke my heart to pick it up today. (He died today at age 58.) The values that Tim's dad taught him are the values we lost---honesty...integrity...hard work. How alike his dad's generation was to my dad's. I cried as I read it. Journalism won't be the same without Tim Russert. Thank you, Big Russ, for raising such a fine person and thank you, Tim, for writing this book. I know you will be in Heaven having debates with the Angels! God bless you. You left this world a better place.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on July 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a heartwarming, uplifting book. Tim Russert's "Big Russ & Me" encompasses both his own life story and the story of his father ("Big Russ.") The senior Russert grew up in a working class family in South Buffalo, New York and went off to play his part in World War II as a member of the Army Air Force. Big Russ came home after the war, married, raised four children and worked two jobs for thirty years without complaint. In the way he's lived his life and the lessons he's taught his son, he's been an exemplar of the values Americans have treasured: honesty, hard work, loyalty, self-discipline.
The author also spins a warmly entertaining chronicle of his youth, where the adults in his Irish-Catholic neighborhood served as an extended family; where the parochial schools he attended did as much to shape his character as build his intellect; and where, in the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, his own passion for politics was first awakened. Russert paints a rich, loving portrait of his first boss, New York Senator Pat Moynihan; remembers some highlights of his briefer tenure on the staff of New York Governor Mario Cuomo; and paints a lively portrait of his years at NBC News, first as a behind-the-scenes executive, and since 1991, host of Meet the Press. Along the way, he married and became a father of a son, Luke.
Russert is a natural-born storyteller. Recalling his feelings of inadequacy when he moved from Moynihan's Buffalo office to Washington, D.C. and found himself surrounded with Ivy League graduates, the senator warmly reassured him that he could learn what the others knew, but they would never have what he did.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By W. P. Strange on May 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
First, those one star reviews tell nothing about the book, and are only intended as personal assaults on Tim Russert as an interviewer on Meet The Press. makes me wonder if they even picked the book up, never mind read it.
That said, I found it to be a celebration of a man whose son is justifiably proud of him. Those of us whose fathers (and mothers) grew up in the depression and survived World War II understand and and admire that generation beyond words. Sometimes the writing is a little sappy, but who among us doesn't get sentimental about parents they loved and admired. Maybe I'm an easy sell because I see so much of my own father (he passed away in 1996), and maybe it is also because my son and I have a close relationship, and love and respect for each other unconditionally.
If you weren't as fortunate as Tim Russert and his father it might be difficult to relate to these feelings, but there is more, much more than that here, and whether or not you like Tim Russert personally, you have to admire his willingness to put himself out there knowing that some people will use it as an opportunity to take a swipe based not on the book but a polititical agenda.
How many of us get the chance to send such an amazing, loving tribute to our fathers, a public thank you for all he has done without ever expecting anything in return?
Thank you Tim.
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