Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mr. Albert & Dr. Harvey & Michael & Me

I've finished the second book for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge, and have suddenly realized I never recorded my first. So, here is my take on Driving Mr. Albert by Michael Paterniti, my non-fiction read for May.

This is the story of a young slacker of a journalist who ends up driving Dr. Thomas Harvey cross country on a special mission. Dr. Harvey is the pathologist who autopsied Einstein, and who removed Einstein's brain and then took it home. Now, years later, he wishes to meet Evelyn Einstein, granddaughter of the great man. Paterniti volunteers to drive him from the East Coast to California where Evelyn is, and they are off on a strange road trip in which you will learn more about both of them than you ever wished to know.

I wasn't terribly enthusiastic about this one. Though I love the Einstein stories, and the utter oddness of them transporting his brain in a Tupperware container stashed in the trunk, I was not enamoured with either man. Dr. Harvey seems very eccentric and sad, really, with his three ex-wives and self-destructive career path. Paterniti provides much information about his own problems with his girlfriend Sara and his lack of purpose in life. I just saw parallels that I'm not sure flattered him. I see the appeal of this story; parts were quite entertaining, such as the description of their visit to Lucas, Kansas and the cement Garden of Eden -- an unusual sculpture garden and mausoleum built by local oddball Samuel Perry Dinsmoor in the early 2oth century. The historical anecdotes that Dr. Harvey was actually a player in were also of interest.

Ultimately, I was just not fully drawn in by the narrative voice or the revealed characters. It felt like it was a bit too long; a lot of stuff thrown in that wasn't necessary except to bring it to the proper book length.

I've discovered I'm more interested in Einstein's thoughts than his actual brain. I'll stick to physics books, I think. I'm a little sad that I can't give this a more enthusiastic recommendation, but I am sure if the narrator appeals to you it would be a much better read.

1 comment:

  1. The premise of this book sounds interesting, its a shame it didn't end up being very good...I hate it when that happens.


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