Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain

Michael Paterniti, Author
Michael Paterniti, Author Dial Press $18.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-33300-9
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
Hardcover - 307 pages - 978-0-7838-9298-6
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-385-33303-0
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-349-11241-1
MP3 CD - 978-1-4805-4123-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-4805-4101-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-4805-4090-3
MP3 CD - 978-1-4805-4112-2
Open Ebook - 140 pages - 978-0-307-76535-2
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Driving a Buick Skylark across the country with an addled octogenarian and an organ may not seem like the ripest material for a story, even if the organ is Albert Einstein's brain. In the hands of a stylish writer like Paterniti, however, the journey becomes a transcendent and hilarious exploration of heady themes like obsession, love and science. In 1955, the octogenarian, a pathologist named Thomas Harvey, removed Einstein's brain during an autopsy and, claiming he wished to study it further, took it home. In the years that followed, he sliced and shipped the brain around the world, but never relinquished most of the organ. Nor, to the criticism of colleagues, did he release his long-promised study. Forty-two years later, Harvey was finally ready to return the brain to Evelyn Einstein, Albert's granddaughter. He enlisted Paterniti, a freelance writer living in Maine, for the task. What ensues is a rare road story that gives equal weight to journey and destination. An expansion of an article published in Harper's magazine, this road-tale bears the classic elements of a spiritual questDthe brain a classic example of a character stand-in. But Paterniti so seamlessly weaves his stream-of-consciousness musings about everything from the theory of relativity to his own sputtering relationship with Harvey that the book becomes much more. Readers will hear echoes from American cultural historyDthe wanderlust of the Beats, the literary texture of Hemingway and the pastel-tinted surrealism of the Simpsons. It's impossible to put this book down. Paterniti has written a work at once entertaining, psychologically rich and emotionally sophisticatedDa feat as rare as, well, Einstein himself. Agent, Sloan Harris. (July)
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