telling minor stories to avoid a major one

Bookdown: No. 6 by Barbecue Bros
April 22, 2009, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Bookdown | Tags:

6. Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America With Einstein’s Brain by Michael Paterniti (2001, 211pp) – Though I haven’t read a lot of them (notably On the Road), road trip books are among my favorite genres to read (see: Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck and Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman). Driving Mr. Albert is the story of a journalist who at a crossroads in his life befriends the pathologist who stole Albert Einstein’s brain after his autopsy and has kept it ever since. Dr. Thomas Harvey is the proprietor of the brain and has kept it with him from moves from Lawrence, Kansas back to Princeton, New Jersey. He is also at a bit of a crossroads in his life, and decides to “take care of some business out west” which would include meeting up with Evelyn Einstein, the granddaughter of Albert. On a whim, Michael offers to be his driver, and that sets in motion the driving force (pun intended) behind the book.

The book alternates between telling various tales of Einstein’s life with tales from the road. Over ten days, the two traverse the US in a rented Buick Skylark and stay in various motels (always two rooms) and houses of friends. They go from obscure museum to obscure tourist stop, all the while the author/narrator suppressing the urge to tell everyone he meets “We have Einstein’s brain in Tupperware in the trunk!” He gets a speeding ticket in Kansas and harasses blackjack dealers in Vegas, asking them what they knew about Einstein. Finally, they end up in Berkeley to meet with Evelyn, though surprisingly Harvey leaves after half an hour without even offering her the brain, an anticlimactic end to a road trip across the US. We do learn in the afterword that both the author and Dr. Harvey find some resolution after their trip, resolving their respective funks they had been in prior to it. For me, this book was a nice semi-random find (bookshelf of my parent’s house) in the road trip genre.

Next up: The Road by Cormac McCarthy


4 Comments so far
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I enjoyed this book, but it was several years ago and I can’t remember why. The one I enjoyed more was the other one you mentioned, Travels with Charlie. I didn’t expect to like it – driving around American with a dog? – but I did, Charlie and all. It was a memory piece for me because I remember those days well, the good and the bad and the angry racists shouting in New Orleans.

Come to think of it, Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath is also a road book, but a different time.

Comment by silverseason

thanks for a great post, i may put a link to it in my own blog.if thats ok with you?

Comment by li

That’s more than ok — I would welcome it.

Comment by silverseason

[…] Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell 5. Love Monkey by Kyle Smith 6. Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America With Einstein’s Brain 7. The Road by Cormac McCarthy 8. The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by  Sid Jacobson […]

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