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A novel which stands unique from anything I've read, The Intuitionist is at face value about the workers who inspect and correct elevators. Anything but simple or humdrum, Colson Whitehead explores class politics, race, and the effect of public outcry through the simple premise of a mysterious occupation. Newcomers to Whitehead will get a proper taste for his wit and intelligence as a writer who concerns himself with powerful allegories. Recommended By Alex Y., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
This debut novel by the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Underground Railroad wowed critics and readers everywhere and marked the debut of an important American writer.
Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read
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.
"Whitehead's prose is graceful and often lyrical, and his elevator underworld is a complex, lovingly realized creation."
The New Yorker
"The Intuitionist is the story of a love affair with the steel and stone, machinery and architecture of the city....This extraordinary novel is the first voice in a powerful chorus to come." Walter Mosley
"Magical....The Intuitionist ranks alongside Catch-22, V, The Bluest Eye and other groundbreaking first novels....Whitehead shares Heller's sense of the absurd, Pynchon's operatic expansiveness and Morrison's deconstruction of race and racism." San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Colson Whitehead is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Underground Railroad. His other works include The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and one collection of essays, The Colossus of New York. A National Book Award winner and a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, he lives in New York City.