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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on February 27, 2004
I personally enjoyed this story of 2 unlikely road trip companions who travel across America with Albert Einstein's brain in the trunk of their rented Buick. I think some of the people reviewing it here on Amazon take it and themselves a little too seriously.
It was quirky and fun and sweet all at the same time. Included is a light biography of Einstein and the bizarre events that took place after his death concerning his brain. Even a little Relativity is thrown in. This is not a serious book and shouldn't be approached as one. I don't think it is one of the great books of our time, but it did provide an interesting escape.
I started readng it, thinking it was fiction, only to discover it is for the most part a factual account. I found it to be the perfect read while I was cruising around the Caribbean on my honeymoon. Anyone who is interested in this subject matter and doesn't already know much about it should pretty much feel the same way. Enjoy!
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on October 26, 2003
This book is just one long-winded Esquire article...a topic with a catchy enough premise to suck you in, words that are put together well enough that you don't put it down immediately after picking it up, but in the end, it goes absolutely nowhere. There's no attempt to get to the heart of ANYTHING...the "brain keeper" his acquaintances, or the author's relationship with his wife, Sara.
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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 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 May 20, 2003
The weighty equation E=mc2 and the theory of relativity, conjure up images of a wiry-haired wrinkled old genius known to the world as Einstein. The author, Paterniti, mixes his own equation with words. The result? More than just a relative success, "Driving Mr. Albert" is a light and amiable concoction of humor, eccentricity, wit, poignancy, as well as raw and often highly amusing observation.
The ever-curious journalist (Paterniti) researches and finally meets Dr. Harvey, the mortician who performed the autopsy on Einstein in 1955. Scandal ensued when Harvey absconded and ultimately "disappeared" with the brain of the genius himself, claiming to be doing scientific studies to assertain if there were any unique facets to it. As Paterniti and Harvey's worlds collide, the result is far from prosaic.
Paterniti writes with such a personal flourish of his own, I was instantly captivated and found myself a passenger aboard his eccentric cross-country pilgrimage with Dr. Harvey and their third "passenger", Einstein's brain (bobbing in a formaldehyde-filled Tupperware container stowed in the trunk).
"Driving Mr. Albert" is the embodiment of the cliché: it's not the destination, but the journey that counts. As Paterniti and Harvey bomb towards California in a rented Skylark to rendezvous with Einstein's granddaughter, Evelyn, the author not only ascertains much about the contradictory persona of Einstein, and Dr. Harvey's fascinating life, but also about his own existence. The words I absorbed enraptured me in laughter, had me strolling down my own memory lane, and brought me near to tears during unexpected poignant scenes. The story and the intriguingly vivid characters, coupled with Paterniti's descriptive rhetoric made for an utterly arresting read. It's also makes for wonderful light weekend reading, as it's mere 211 pages will attest, and can be finished in a few sittings. With a plethora of these factors in its favor, I would not hesitate recommending "Driving Mr. Albert" to anyone who enjoys a truly entertaining anecdote, both deep and humorous.
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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 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 February 2, 2003
In reading the customer reviews, as well as talking about this book with others, I'm suprised at the amount of negative reactions this book has ignited. A professor commented that Paterniti is one of the worst non-fiction writers of our time. A friend lamented that this book would have made an excellent essay, trimming the fat so to speak (it actually was an article).
But I love it.
I received this book for Christmas, not knowing anything about it. And I've been happily pleased with it. While the story itself is unique and interesting, I enjoyed the interspersed biographical material on Einstein. Are there better sources for this information? Likely. But the way these bits are interwoven into Paternity's cross-country journey are quite fitting. Another common complaint about this book is the personal subplot of Paterniti's life. I rather enjoy that as well, to be honest. His homesickness, frustration, and anxiety of aging provide a nice addition to the Einstein backdrop.
My only complaint is that, at times, it seems as though Paterniti is trying to hard. Not in a pretentious manner, but he just seems to strain himself to write on occasion. But not so much as to turn me off from his work.
Overall, a great work of modern American non-fiction.
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on January 2, 2003
This is a book about a writer, a scientist who has Einstein's brain, and the trip they take across the country. That is like saying Moby Dick is about a whale.
This is one of the great books I have read in a long time. That of course is relative, because it is my opinion. It is all relative...and that is what this amazing book is about for me.
Alot of reviews and readers seem to think this book is quirky and eccentric. I happen to think it is a very clear piece which resonated with me for a long time.
When reviews comment about this book not being a travel book, or a biography or this or that...I think it is brilliant because it ties all those threads together. I think that it boldly makes connections.
I frankly do not know what you as a reader will think of this book. My sister in law loved it but thought it was fiction. I loved it and thought it was fact.
And truthfully I love books that leave me to wander in the universe a little. Some people want conclusion. I don't think life concludes.
I can only say that this book left me spinning in a universe of science, love, fate, Vegas, diners, Concrete Garden of Edens, destiny and hot tubs. I feel like a portal of the universe was open when I read this...and I will probably never look at things the same. You might sell the book for fifty cents.
It's all relative
I will say this....if you know nothing about Einsein, you may learn a little something. If you haven't thought about the power of science, the joys of life, our place in a swirling mass of might....
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on December 4, 2002
A fantastic mix of comedy and history Driving Mr. Albert will not only keep you laughing but teach you a little about Einstein's life along the way.
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