-by Michael Paterniti
211 pages (2000)
Driving Mr. Albert one is one of those unique works that elude interpretive hyperboles a ‘magnum opus’. You don’t describe it you experience it.
The weighty equation E=mc2 and the theory of relativity, conjure up images of a wiry-haired wrinkled genius known to the world as Albert 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 also makes for wonderful light weekend reading -as its mere 211 pages will attest - and can be finished in a few sittings. With a plethora of these factors in its favor, Driving Mr. Albert is an entertaining anecdote, both deep and humorous.