The young African-American writer to watch may well be a thirty-one-year-old Harvard graduate with the vivid name of Colson Whitehead. The extensive guild of metropolitan elevator inspectors is split, it would seem, between the Empiricists, who plod through their inspections one material criterion at a time, and the Intuitionists, who take a more mystical, gestalt approach to the detection of safety flaws. Whitehead unfolds his raddled undercity with the terse poetry and numinous dignity of the early Malamud. The prose is a gas, bubbly, clean, often funny in its bursts of mock-mandarin social exposition:. The spa failed after newer spas opened in the weatherless regions of the Southwest. His hip wit sits on the narrative less as delicious icing than as a nervous burden; self-consciousness threatens to block every simple feeling.
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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. A New York Times Notable Book A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year Two warring factions in the Department of Elevator Inspectors in a bustling metropolis vie for dominance: the Empiricists, who go by the book and rigorously check every structural and mechanical detail, and the Intuitionists, whose observational methods involve meditation and instinct.
Lila Mae W A New York Times Notable Book A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year Two warring factions in the Department of Elevator Inspectors in a bustling metropolis vie for dominance: the Empiricists, who go by the book and rigorously check every structural and mechanical detail, and the Intuitionists, whose observational methods involve meditation and instinct. As she endeavors to clear her name, she becomes entangled in a web of intrigue that leads her to a secret that will change her life forever.
A dead-serious and seriously funny feat of the imagination, The Intuitionist conjures a parallel universe in which latent ironies in matters of morality, politics, and race come to light, and stands as the celebrated debut of an important American writer. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published January 4th by Anchor Books first published More Details Original Title. Lila Mae Watson. United States of America. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about The Intuitionist , please sign up. John Harbord If you like books that are really about something quite different from what they seem to be about on the surface, this is a great read. The book is de …more If you like books that are really about something quite different from what they seem to be about on the surface, this is a great read. The book is definitely not about elevators. See 1 question about The Intuitionist….
Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Intuitionist. Dec 12, J. Sutton rated it it was amazing. Or is it about an ideological conflict between opposing schools of elevator theory the Empiricists and the Intuitionists which surfaces when an elevator deemed safe by elevator inspector, Lila Mae Watson an Intuitionist goes into freefall?
Amid whirling conspiracies, Lila Mae, the first woman of color to join the ranks of an occupation dominated by white men, attempts to find out who set her up.
I plan to reread this novel to see what I missed the first time. Wonderful writing and an interesting and engaging read, 4. View all 17 comments. Posted at Heradas Review The time period is difficult to pin down. The setting is never explicitly said to be New York City, but it is.
There are clues peppered here and there but the whole thing also has a timeless, every-major-city quality to it. This world is exactly like ours, except elevators are a big, big deal. Their creation has shaped the form and structure of cities; buildings with arrangements of floors vertically stacked ad infinitum up into the sky, a concept itself onl Posted at Heradas Review The time period is difficult to pin down.
Their creation has shaped the form and structure of cities; buildings with arrangements of floors vertically stacked ad infinitum up into the sky, a concept itself only possible as a result of reliable, mechanical elevation. Those elevators highly utilized only because they are safe, safe only because of the skilled elevator inspectors laying down the law regarding their maintenance, and upkeep.
Elevators and elevator inspectors are given the same level of awe that airplanes and pilots once had in our version of America. Suffice it to say there are several layers to this elevator-as-metaphor aspect, and they have a unique dialogue with one another. Almost every corner of the novel mirrors, and folds on itself. The narrative is broken into two sections: Down, and Up: a fall from grace, and a rise from the ashes.
The dual and dueling, mirrored approaches to elevator inspection, Empiricism and Intuitionism. The former being the familiar method of visually inspecting, and testing components to ensure their reliability, checking them against tolerances and allowances.
The latter embodying what you might call a holistic approach; feeling and communicating mentally, or spiritually with the elevator in an effort to understand what issues may be affecting it. The concept of intuitionism is where a lot of the surreal comedy of the novel stems. Can you imagine a sillier approach to checking a mechanical system? This book is an exemplary illustration of the power speculative fiction wields as a form of literature. Couple this with the double standards governing white America and black America, men and women, and it becomes poetic.
This is used to show that there is always more than one way to approach any topic, any reality that you can interact with. That only using our eyes, can sometimes blind us in other ways, to other things. Reality is what we make it, and limiting ourselves to just one sense can be a dangerous practice indeed.
You have to be able to fathom change before you can start to affect it, and this novel has a lot to say about where innovation and change originate, and how best to implement them. Whatever the reason, I find them comparable novels. View all 9 comments. Jun 16, carol. Shelves: my-library , multi-culti , lit-fiction , mystery , sci-fi. I came to Colson Whitehead by way of zombies.
Yes, that Colson Whitehead. I'd like to pause for a moment and just admire the mind-twist for those that deride zombie books. The I came to Colson Whitehead by way of zombies.
The writing in Zone One my review was astonishing enough that I resolved to seek out more of his work. The message was bleak enough that I wasn't in a hurry about it. Though I picked up John Henry Days some time ago for a song, it was finding The Intuitionist that brought me back to him--I find a little mystery hard to resist.
Except it wasn't, not really. Allegory and all that. Post-modern literature something-something. Except better, because it's not self-consciously ironic or a parody. It's sincere. On the surface, it's a pulpy noir fiction, set in a roughly parallel world to ours, ugly racism warts and all, in an unnamed New York, during perhaps the s. It's about a woman who works as an elevator inspector, a member of the prominent and politically powerful Department of Elevator Inspectors.
The elevator doctrine has undergone a schismatic shift in the past decade, after Mr. James Fulton developed the theory of Intuition, the discipline of inspecting an elevator by analyzing one's experience of it.
Lila Mae is the first colored woman in the department, only the second colored person in the local chapter, and a disciple of Intuitionism. When a brand new elevator crashes thankfully, without passengers , it seems she and the Intuitionists are being set up to take the fall and enable an easy political win for the Empiricists. Lila, unsure how to defend herself, takes a role in solving the issue after the head of the Intuitionists approaches her with a tempting lure--designs for Fulton's mythical black box seems to be in play but missing, a Holy Grail of elevator design that will revolutionize the city.
In one sense it works. The surface plot is interesting--there are, after all, secret societies, company cars, a muck-raking newspaperman, gangsters and potential lovers.
The story holds, Lila Mae is sufficiently developed beyond allegory, the city is full of rich detail, the puzzle of the elevator guild interesting and the possible blueprint alluring. Weaving through it is Lila's acknowledgement of the experience of being an African-American woman, her history, and her gradual awakening in the city. In another sense, it feels very constructed, very designed, meant to educate and explore, and not quite so much to feel.
The Intuitionist is Whitehead's first published work. I was a little disappointed to not see the same level of prose that I loved in Zone One. Bleak as it was, the imagery in Zone was mesmerizing and intricate.
Elevators, after all, are what first made practical the construction of buildings taller than five or six stories, altering the character of cities worldwide and setting off social and political upheavals that helped shape our 20th-century experience. Not a bad legacy for the designer of what is essentially a cramped box and a system of pulleys, counterweights and brakes. While this notion of Otis as a founding father of modern society might be debatable, it serves quite well as the central tenet of ''The Intuitionist,'' Colson Whitehead's ingenious and starkly original first novel. In the skewed world that Whitehead creates -- a hard-boiled, pre-civil-rights New York of cigarette girls, automats and men in fedoras -- elevators are the dominant symbol of the times. The city's elevator inspectors, who enjoy an ''undeniable macho cachet'' among the general population, earn their mystique by publishing esoteric articles about elevators in a trade magazine called Lift.
Tote that Ephemera
The Intuitionist is a speculative fiction novel by American writer Colson Whitehead. The Intuitionist takes place in a city implicitly, New York full of skyscrapers and other buildings requiring vertical transportation in the form of elevators. The time, never identified explicitly, is one when black people are called "colored" and integration is a current topic. The protagonist is Lila Mae Watson, an elevator inspector of the "Intuitionist" school.
Verticality, architectural and social, is at the heart of Colson Whitehead's first novel that takes place in an unnamed high-rise city that combines twenty-first-century engineering feats with nineteenth-century pork-barrel politics. Elevators are the technological expression of the vertical ideal, and Lila Mae Watson, the city's first black female elevator inspector, is its embattled token of upward mobility. When Number Eleven of the newly completed Fanny Briggs Memorial Building goes into deadly free-fall just hours after Lila Mae has signed off on it, using the controversial 'Intuitionist' method of ascertaining elevator safety, both Intuitionists and Empiricists recognize the set-up, but may be willing to let Lila Mae take the fall in an election year. As Lila Mae strives to exonerate herself in this urgent adventure full of government spies, underworld hit men, and seductive double agents, behind the action, always, is the Idea.