This debut novel by the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Underground Railroad wowed critics and readers everywhere and marked the debut. Colson Whitehead, Author Anchor Books $ (p) ISBN the city’s first black female Intuitionist elevator inspector, the woman immediately comes under . In a deftly plotted mystery and quest tale that’s also a teasing intellectual adventure, Whitehead traces the continuing education of Lila Mae.

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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 Intuitipnist Mae take the fall in an election year. As Lila Mae strives to exonerate herself in this urgent imtuitionist full of government spies, underworld hit men, and seductive double agents, behind the action, always, is the Idea.

Lila Mae’s quest is whiteheead entwined with existence of heretofore lost writings by James Fulton, father of Intuitionism, a giant of vertical thought. If she is able to find and reveal his plan for the perfect, next-generation elevator, the city as it now exists may instantly become obsolescent. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving….

Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead.

Verticality, architectural and social, is the whitshead idea at the heart of Colson Whitehead’s first novel that takes place in an unnamed high-rise city that combines 21st-century engineering feats with 19th-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 Verticality, architectural and social, is the lofty idea at the heart of Colson Whitehead’s first novel that takes place in an unnamed high-rise city that combines 21st-century engineering feats with 19th-century pork-barrel politics.

Whktehead are the technological expression whitehad the vertical ideal, and Lila Mae Watson, the city’s first black female elevator inspector, is its embattled token of upward mobility. Paperbackpages.

THE INTUITIONIST by Colson Whitehead | Kirkus Reviews

Published January 4th by Anchor first published United States of America. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Intuitionistplease sign up.

Richard Becker It depends on why you are hesitant.


I was dazzled by its headiness. See 1 question about The Intuitionist…. Lists with This Book. 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 thw 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 4 comments.


Posted at Heradas Review The time period is difficult to pin down. The location is difficult to pin down. Maybe New York, maybe Boston or Chicago? There are clues peppered here and there but the whole thing has a timeless, every ghe quality to it.

This world is exactly like ours, except that elevators are a big, big deal. Their creation has shaped the form and structure of cities; buildings with arrangements of floors vertically stacked ad Posted at Heradas Review The time period is difficult to whirehead 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. Intuiitonist narrative is broken into two sections: 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 inhuitionist 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 intuitionizt, 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. Whatever the reason, I find them comparable novels.

View all 7 comments. Jun intuitionis, carol. Someone who wants a gumbo of mystery, lit, pulp, and African-American experience. 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 colskn those that deride zombie books.

The I came to Colson Whitehead by way intuituonist 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. Except better, because it’s not self-consciously ironic or a parody. On the surface, whiteehead 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 oclson the past decade, after Mr.


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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 whiteheda disciple of Intuitionism.

When a brand new elevator crashes thankfully, without passengersit 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 tbe 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. In contrast, this is a book not necessarily of language, but of ideas. Elevators have, in essence, transformed the city, allowing it to reach new heights. A new elevator–the fabled black box–would do the same.

Intuitionists wihtehead transforming the field, and people of color are transforming themselves. It’s fascinating and complex, and much like an elevator–gears, weights, counterweights, artistry, and while the purpose is clear, the mechanism of the parallels are not so obvious that the reader feels overpowered. Unfortunately, it also, much like the elevator, misses the feel factor.

I enjoyed it as a read, I was intellectually engaged, but it reminded me a bit of high school English class, without the note-passing we didn’t have texting in those days. Perhaps it’s because Lila Mae shitehead somewhat disenfranchised from herself–as she goes through her life one step removed, I found I remained somewhat removed as well.

Still, it was interesting, and pleasantly complex. I don’t regret the time spent, and feel rather pleased about exercising those mental muscles.

It definitely piques my interest in the rest of the Whitehead cannon. Three and a half stars, rounding up because this author can write.

Cross posted at http: View all 20 comments. Jul 23, Maryellen Allen rated it it was amazing. This book was recommended to me intuitiojist a list.