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The Intuitionist: A Novel by Colson…

The Intuitionist: A Novel (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Colson Whitehead

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1,216316,556 (3.77)43
Title:The Intuitionist: A Novel
Authors:Colson Whitehead
Info:Anchor (2000), Edition: 1st Anchor Books Ed, Paperback, 255 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead (1999)



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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
This started out really interesting, but as I went on I had a harder and harder time staying focused and into it. I barely finished it. I think the author was trying too hard to make it allegorical--more specific details about the time and place and world the characters inhabited would have made it better. As it was, I had a hard time picturing the story and setting in my head and couldn't keep a lot of the characters straight. ( )
  nicole_a_davis | Sep 27, 2015 |
I wanted to like this book set in the unlikely environment of the elevator inspector business, but id did not do so much for me. Did not finish it. ( )
  ohernaes | Mar 7, 2015 |
This debut novel is absolutely brilliant! Whitehead's writing reminds me of Ayn Rand, of Millhauser and Auster. Under the guise of a political battle amongst factions of the guild of elevator repairmen, Whitehouse is able to at one and the same time tell a gripping, suspenseful story and also offer up scathing commentary on racism, on human striving and lack thereof, of man's fear of lack of control, and the ups and downs, so to speak, of the human imagination. At once witty, yet raging, at once absurd and profound. I will definitely read more of this author's work! ( )
  hemlokgang | Mar 3, 2015 |
This clever novel tells a very suspenseful and gripping story that centers on … the city's Department of Elevator Inspectors!? Throughout the book, the mystery of which city, and what time period, are both in the back of your mind. But your mind is more perplexed about the huge role that elevators and elevator inspectors play in this society. The dark moody world of the Department is constantly reported upon in the major popular elevator magazines and on the front page of the city's newspapers. The department is split into two rival camps which are separated by their methods of inspection. There is the one group of inspectors that crawl above, below, around, and through each elevator to determine its condition. The other group, the Intuitionists, simply stands nearby and sort of reads the vibes of an elevator, to determine what repairs and adjustments are needed. These two factions don't get along, and the friction between them has grown lately because it's an election year. There is plenty of political intrigue swirling around a young black woman, the first in the department. Disaster strikes, and all hell breaks loose.

This description must sound rather in-bred and focused on some small little world in an elevator, but if you read The Intuitionist you will see that Whitehead has used a fictional setting to allow himself to write about some very large issues. The real world may philosophically view the issues of race, politics, and spirituality on a grander scale, but no issue is ever really about anything larger than how two people relate to each other. Using the incredible depth, heart, and humor of his writing, Colson Whitehead shows a world not that different from our own—we just get to see it from a fresh angle. There are several mysteries that play major roles in this book, but I'm not telling. This review isn't here to ruin the fun of a good story, just to try to get you to check it out.

(6/99) ( )
  jphamilton | Jul 27, 2014 |
An odd novel set in a universe in which elevators seem to be the highest form of technology, and there are disputes between two schools of inspectors, the Intuitionists and the Empiricists. Lila Mae Watson, the city's first female black inspector, is being framed for an elevator crash designed to show up the Intuitionists.

It's kind of a whodunit about a search for lost blueprints from a visionary Intuitionist designer, with thugs and spys. Set in a city that's clearly New York, in a era when segregation is just ending. I'm not sure I got all the subtext. I liked its quirkiness, the alternate universe, but ultimately I was bored and disappointed. I think I missed its subtleties and metaphysics. Okay, elevators are a way to rise, and being an elevator inspector is a rise in status, but beyond that I got nothing. There are a couple of big revelations, one of them about people not being what they seem; I couldn't discern the significance of the other. ( )
  piemouth | Sep 19, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385493002, Paperback)

Verticality, architectural and social, is the lofty idea at the heart of Colson Whitehead's odd, sly, and ultimately irresistible first novel. The setting is an unnamed though obviously New Yorkish high-rise city, the time less convincingly future than deliciously other, as it combines 21st-century engineering feats with 19th-century pork-barrel politics and smoky working-class pubs. Elevators are the technological expression of the vertical idea, and Lila Mae Watson, the city's first black female elevator inspector, is its embattled token of upward mobility.

Lila Mae's good ol' boy colleagues in the Department of Elevator Inspectors are understandably jealous of the flawless record that her natural intelligence and diligence have earned, and understandably delighted when Number Eleven in 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. It is, after all, an election year in the Elevator Guild, and the Empiricists would do most anything to discredit the Intuitionist faction. Everyone on both sides assumes that Number Eleven was sabotaged and Lila Mae set up to take the fall. "So complete is Number Eleven's ruin," writes Whitehead, "that there's nothing left but the sound of the crash, rising in the shaft, a fall in opposite: a soul." Lila Mae's doom seems equally irreversible.

Whitehead evokes a world so utterly involving to its own denizens that outside reality does not impinge on its perfect solipsism. We the readers are taken hostage 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. Lila Mae's quest reveals the existence of heretofore lost writings by James Fulton, father of Intuitionism, a giant of vertical thought, whose fate is mysteriously entwined with her own. If she is able to find and reveal his plan for the Black Box, the perfect, next-generation elevator, the city as it now exists will instantly be obsolescent. The social and economic implications are huge and the denouement is elegantly philosophical. Most impressive of all is the integrity of Whitehead's prose. Eschewing mere cleverness, resisting showoff word play, he somehow manages to strike a tone that's always funny, always fierce, and always entirely respectful of his characters and their world. May the god of second novels smile as broadly on him as did the god of firsts. --Joyce Thompson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:59 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An elevator inspector becomes the center of controversy when an elevator crashes. The inspector, Lila Mae Watson, is a black woman who inspects by intuition, as opposed to visual observation, and now she must prove her method was not at fault. A study of society's attitude to technology and a debut in fiction.… (more)

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