The Intuitionist

The Intuitionist

Book - 1999
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It is a time of calamity in a major metropolitan city's Department of Elevator Inspectors, and Lila Mae Watson, the first black female elevator inspector in the history of the department, is at the center of it.  There are two warring factions within the department:  the Empiricists, who work by the book and dutifully check for striations on the winch cable and such; and the Intuitionists, who are simply able to enter the elevator cab in question, meditate, and intuit any defects.   Lila Mae is an Intuitionist and, it just so happens, has the highest accuracy rate in the entire department.  But when an elevator in a new city building goes into total freefall on Lila Mae's watch, chaos ensues.  It's an election year in the Elevator Guild, and the good-old-boy Empiricists would love nothing more than to assign the blame to an Intuitionist.  But Lila Mae is never wrong. The sudden appearance of excerpts from the lost notebooks of Intuitionism's founder, James Fulton, has also caused quite a stir.  The notebooks describe Fulton's work on the "black box," a perfect elevator that could reinvent the city as radically as the first passenger elevator did when patented by Elisha Otis in the nineteenth century.  When Lila Mae goes underground to investigate the crash, she becomes involved in the search for the portions of the notebooks that are still missing and uncovers a secret that will change her life forever. A dead-serious and seriously funny feat of the imagination,The Intuitionistis a brilliant debut by an exceptional young talent.  Its sidesplitting humor is accompanied by a sobering examination of race--how it causes people to act and what it causes them to believe about themselves and others.  In the tradition of Ralph Ellison, Colson Whitehead artfully crosses back and forth over racial, political, and artistic borders to create a work of stunning depth,  soulfulness, and originality, starring one of the most intriguing heroines in contemporary fiction.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, c1999
ISBN: 9780385492997
0385492995
Branch Call Number: WHITEHE
Characteristics: 255 p

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skyekilaen
Mar 11, 2017

So dense that I had to take breaks to rest my brain, and so good that I (almost) want to take a college lit class where it's on the syllabus so I can hear people say smart things about it. (But I hate school, so that's not happening.) Whitehead's writing is rich and textured. Every single "minor" character is memorable. Just freakin' amazing.

It actually reminded me of my fave book ever, Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, but without the wackiness. I don't know if enough people have read Vineland for that to be helpful in any way. ;)

SFPL_danielay Dec 27, 2014

I never would have thought elevator inspection could be so thrilling. A funny, thoughtful, exciting read.

p
PearlyBaker
Aug 13, 2014

I wanted to love it. I really loved Sag Harbor and Zone One. I enjoy his writing style and prose but I just could not for life of me get into this piece at all.

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