Synopses & Reviews
Lila Mae Watson is the first black female Elevator Inspector in the history of the Department. She is an Intuitionist, able to intuit defects purely by tuning in to the machinery. The opposition, the Empiricists, practice dutiful and routine physical inspection.
When a new elevator on Lila Mae's rounds goes into total freefall, her solitary existence is shattered. Sabotage is the obvious explanation: it's election year in the Elevator Guild and the Empiricists would love nothing better than to bring down an Intuitionist, and a coloured one at that. Lila Mae is never wrong.
As Lila Mae tries to uncover the truth, she is sucked into a violent whirlpool of conspiracy and deceit. The fight is on to recover the formula for the perfect elevator: the 'black box' that could radically reinvent the city.
Fusing the classic elements of the noir thriller with serious racial, political and philosophical questions, The Intuitionist is a groundbreaking and marvelously inventive novel. Moving, stylish and darkly funny, it introduces a remarkably accomplished young writer.
"Brilliant, funny, poetic...a complex mix of contemporary issues and the urban imagery of 40 years ago...The style [Whitehead] creates to portray this world is equally intricate and rich a supple, jazzy instrument that can swing from deadpan satirical fantasy to a straight-ahead portrayal of the pain and stoicism of black people living in a ham-fisted white world, looking for the ultimate elevator that will take them up and out." Utne Reader
"The Intuitionist is the story of a love affair with the steel and stone, machinery and architecture of the city. It's not a pretty love, but a working-class passion for the stench of humanity that its heroine, Lila Mae Watson, has made her own. But as always with love there is betrayal. This extraordinary novel is the first voice in a powerful chorus to come." Walter Mosley
"This splendid novel reads as though a stray line in Pynchon or Millhauser had been meticulously unfolded to reveal an entire world, one of spooky, stylish alternate-Americana, as rich and haunted as our own. The care and confidence of the prose, the visionary metaphor beating like a heart at the center these do not outweigh the poignance and humor, the human presence here. The Intuitionist rises someplace new, and very special." Jonathan Lethem