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3.8 out of 5 stars86
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-10 of 13 reviews(2 star).Show all reviews
on August 4, 2003
As another reviewer has pointed out, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" this book ain't.
The writer's understanding of even basic physics seems very limited (this is evident from how confused his physics based metaphors are), let alone whether he understands anything at all about relativity. If you are tempted to read this book because you think that it will offer a readable introduction to relativity - don't because it won't. The reviewers who have said that the book offers an introduction to relativity must be as confused as the writer is. I have the suspicion that the number of stars given by the reviewer is inversely proportional to the amount of physics which the reviewer understands.
The main flaw of this book however is how contrived it is. In this respect it is deeply disappointing, as the further I got into the book, the deeper was my feeling of hurt at being conned by this writer. Persevering with reading the book is like persevering with cultivating a relationship with an absolute liar and is deeply upsetting in this regard. You feel like reaching out to grab them and implore them, "Just tell the truth." I know nothing about writing, and have not attended graduate school in creative writing as has the author, but surely the first thing that a writer must do is develop his own voice which is an honest voice, and not a phony voice. Most of the incidents relayed in the book appear to be manufactured merely for inclusion in a book about travelling across America with Einstein's brain in the trunk - to be quirky and to boost sales.
The most enjoyable and least phony passages are towards the beginning of the book concerning the author's time spent at graduate school where he met Sara and his trips across country as a teenager and a 23 year old. After this, the mask comes up in front of his face and we step into the realm of "contrived quirkiness," presumably in the interests of sales. Perhaps "zany" sells, and it is probably easier to sell books by fooling the customer than by actually writing something of some enduring value. The many good reviews on this web site seem to me to be a testament to this fact.
All of this is to say nothing about the despicable act which the physician Harvey committed in stealing the brain out of a corpse. To employ my own physics based metaphor, there is a certain wave-particle duality between the dishonesty exhibited by Harvey in his actions (whatever his intentions were) and the actions of getting a magazine contract, then a book contract, then going on the trip (in a car paid for by the publishers) and then pushing the manuscript on those unsuspecting readers out there across America, who are waiting to lap up "zany" (whatever the intentions of the writer were.)
I'm with the school kid who asked the physician Harvey, "What's the point?" Ultimately, an exercise in pretentious and dishonest babbling, and I will be glad to be finished with the book.
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on December 15, 2000
I would of enjoyed reading at least one paragraph that wasn't overly written. Sometimes you get a little upset and scream "Just say it, damnit!".
This book was pretty upsetting for me - he ends up idolizing this cretin of a pathologist who stole Einstien's brain for no other purpose than the limelight. He then refused to return it to the family, or hand it over to an institution for proper research. Instead this pathological country bumbkin keeps it in his basement in a box, giving out pieces to those who praise him for this grisly deed. Dr. Harvey is a jerk extraordinaire, in my book easily one of the top ten jerks of all time. Yet the writer adores him, so much that when the bumbling pathologist leaves the brain (in tupperware, to wit) in the back seat of the rental car he does not promptly return it to the family or authorities; instead he gives it back to the absent minded fool who took it. You really have to wonder...
If this want-to-be writer had spent more time thinking about the subject matter than trying to eloquently express everything from a gas-stop to indigestion, this book could have been much better. Perhaps even an expose of the man most deservedly removed of his medical license, Dr. Harvey. Unfotunately the writer was obsessed with his own fame, a true brother of Harvey.
Two stars for the chronicle, but that's all you get.
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on September 20, 2000
Where was Einstein's spirit when Paterniti needed it? This book could have used a little energy. In it, nothing happens to two not-very-interesting people. Paterniti moons about his girlfriend without going into their relationship much at all (though there's all sorts of "Book of Us" New-Agey goopiness) and barely exchanges a word with the keeper of the Einstein brain, Mr. Harvey, who comes across as a bit slow. But then, he's in his '80s, so why not? Maybe this worked as a magazine piece, but it's a dull book with a padded-out feeling. Even as a road trip saga, it has little to say. And Paterniti's obession with the brain is never explained--though I suspect that's because he had none, but just faked it because it seemed like a good idea for an article. I didn't believe in quite a few of the recounted conversations/incidents, as they just rang false (e.g., the bit about the hostile cocktail waitress in Las Vegas and the tale of the transvestite in West Hollywood--after having lived in LA for 15 years without having run into a drag queen on the sidewalk, I find it hard to believe someone's second encounter in LA is with one). The book isn't well-edited, either. There are lots of annoying verb usages ("shunted" without an object, as in "she was shunted" though perhaps he meant "shunned") and the LA geography is off. A let down.
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on August 7, 2000
It's certainly easy to see how this book found its publisher; the pitch couldn't have been easier. Driving cross-country with an old coot carrying Einstein's brain in a tupperware container. Who wouldn't want to hear about that? And so we did, first in a magazine article and now in a fleshed out, 200 plus page book. However, while reading it, one can't escape the feeling that something more unbelievable than this premise is occurring: namely, that it's turning out to be a dud.
In short, nothing of interest or consequence happens either during the trip or the book itself. The old coot turns out to be one who doesn't say much (or, probably more accurately, doesn't say anything that Paterniti chooses to write about. The absence of dialogue is maddening), the brain is just that-a brain which, after the shock value has worn off is nothing more than an inanimate object floating in formaldehyde. Not much to say there as well. And so they travel, the three of them-Paterniti, the old coot and the brain, across America for a purpose which is never made clear and which never pays off in the end. They stop a few times along the way but Paterniti is able to make even an evening with William Burroughs sound dull; not a simple feat. Perhaps it's that Paterniti is the dull one among all the characters here. Too bad since we're subjected to his meandering prose for 200 plus pages with nary an insight. Paterniti misses his girlfriend, misses Maine, wonders what he's doing with his life. I don't know why I'm supposed to care.
We're also asked to endure his musings over Einstein's greatness which is akin to being lectured by Mario Mendoza on how it is that Mark McGwire hits home runs.
Paterniti's book is an example of what can happen after one is awarded a book deal. It may very well be that no book in fact emerges. In such instances, it would be to everyone's benefit if the author would not then write one anyway.
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on April 8, 2003
complete with a visit to wm burroughs, paterniti spends alot of time trying to figure out how to make this into an interesting trip, but fails. some of the more interesting pieces are vignettes into the life and head of einstein which can be better appreciated in a biography. sadly, none of the "characters" he meets on the road are very interesting. his ties to his personal problems are also shallow and out of place. i can't even say i found the character of the doctor interesting. if you're looking for a road book, go to the best--on the road by jack kerouac. this book is a pretty good short story that grew too long.
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on July 14, 2000
I have waited for a book from Mr. Paterniti since I read the original article in Harper's Magazine 1997, but Mr. Albert is deeply disappointing. Given a book length format the author has the time and space to go on about his dwindling affair and his theories of love ("You lose each other and find each other again. Every day. Until love gathers the turtles and birds of your world and encompasses them, too."). He labors to draw clever parallels between his own life, Dr. Harvey's, Einstein's, and the laws of physics. There are gems to be found, but I'm not sure it's worth the effort.
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on August 23, 2001
I had great expectations starting this book. I was let down with the lack of real direction or character development. The story revolves around a young man who is helping an older gentlemen drive across the country to return Einstein's brain to a living relative. Their journey explores all kinds of ideas about Einstein. But, leaves you wondering how would Einstein feel about his brain being driven across America in a Tupperware container. I felt that the author could have done more to move the book down a path that could have kept my interest. Instead I was happy to be done with the book.
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on August 20, 2003
The book is just OK. A friend told me that inspired by the success of this project, the author got a job as a Federal Baggage Screener to write an expose of this profession (although he claims that he just wanted to be a Federal Baggage Screener), and has been doing the rounds of TV interviews (CNN, FOXNews(unfair and biased), Nickelodeon, etc) to boost sales. He's been attacked by some of the interviewers for not being straight about his intentions to write an expose (but he claims that he just wanted to be a Federal Baggage Screener.) Does anyone else know if this is correct?
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on March 17, 2003
Perhaps, my level of anticipation and expectations were too high thinking that the book, Driving Mr. Albert, would be an amusing road trip with insights to Einstein's life and mind. The book seemed more about the author's own crumby life, and his angst ridden love for Sara (page 187). In the beginning of his road trip with Dr. Harvey, as they traverse states heading west past Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, his attempt to create metaphors describing the numbing white lines lapses into jaded cliches. His writing is endless drivel and unsatisfying.
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on January 18, 2001
I expected Driving Mr. Albert to be more of a reflection or retropsective about Albert Einstein. I expected to learn a lot about Albert Einstein, his philosophies, his family, his contributions to society, little-known facts, etc.. Instead, it was in my opinion a fairly bland recollection of Mr. Paterniti's trip with the doctor and the brain. I'm sure it was an interesting trip for Mr. Paterniti, but it wasn't too interesting or insightful for me. My expectations were much different...
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