The Intuitionist

Two warring factions in the Department of Elevator Inspectors in a bustling metropolis vie for dominance The Empiricists, who go by the book and rigorously check every structural and mechanical detail and the Intuitionists, whose observational methods involve meditation and instinct The Intuitionist conjures a parallel universe in which latent ironies in matters of moraTwo warring factions in the Department of Elevator Inspectors in a bustling metropolis vie for dominance The Empiricists, who go by the book and rigorously check every structural and mechanical detail and the Intuitionists, whose observational methods involve meditation and instinct The Intuitionist conjures a parallel universe in which latent ironies in matters of morality, politics, and race come to light.
The Intuitionist Two warring factions in the Department of Elevator Inspectors in a bustling metropolis vie for dominance The Empiricists who go by the book and rigorously check every structural and mechanical detail

  • Title: The Intuitionist
  • Author: Colson Whitehead
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 289
  • Format: Paperback
  • 1 thought on “The Intuitionist”

    1. Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist is a mystery about…elevator inspectors? 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? Whitehead’s novel has the feel of a noir detective story replete with intrigue and espionage. His urban landscape is filled with characters you’d expect to see in such a no [...]

    2. Posted at Heradas ReviewThe time period is difficult to pin down. The location is difficult to pin down. Maybe New York, maybe Boston or Chicago? 1950s, 1960s? There are clues pepered here and there but the whole thing has a timeless, every city quality to it. I love that it’s never explicitly stated. 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 [...]

    3. I came to Colson Whitehead by way of zombies.Colson Whitehead, writer of award-nominated books, including National Book Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and New York Times Notable Book of the Year; contributer to the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Harper's; and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.Yes, that Colson Whitehead. Zombies. I'd like to pause for a moment and just admire the mind-twist for those that deride zombie books.The [...]

    4. This book was recommended to me off a list. I read some reviews before I dove in. Some said "it's about elevators" others said "it's all about race". Welley're both kind of right, but I think they've missed the point. This is an excellent book. It's an old fashioned murder mystery wrapped in a philosophical discussion wrapped in a metaphor. Colson Whitehead has created a wonderful "film noir" urban landscape completely centered around the world of elevator inspectors. This world of elevators and [...]

    5. In an interview with Salon following the publication of his 1999 debut novel The Intuitionist, Colson Whitehead discusses the freedom he has as an African American writer of the late 20th century. He says, "decades ago, there was the protest novel, and then there was 'tell the untold story, find our unerased history.' Then there's the militant novel of insurrection from the '60s. There were two rigid camps in the '60s: the Black Arts movement, denouncing James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison for being [...]

    6. I'll hold off rating this one until I think about it a bit there is a lot to like about it; but a lot I just didn't understand. My elevator sometimes doesn't go all the way to the top._____________Here's the thing: at another time and place, I would probably rate this a 4. However, in this current time and place, the complexity of the structure, an allegory that I never really "got" and the flat affect of the central character all kept me at arm's length when what I wanted, most, was to be immer [...]

    7. This isn't just an allegory of race, as the many glowing reviews in the prefatory pages state. It's an allegory of everything. "Elevators" and "intuitionism" variously represent upward social mobility and its limits, the threatened gains of the civil rights movement, the anxiety of a post-rational worldview, challenges to good-old-boy cronyism, the enabling factor of the modern urban center and the possibility of its transcendence the list goes on. In the interest of thematic expansiveness, Whi [...]

    8. There's a rich strain of American literature dealing with this nation's original sin, slavery and its residue. In fact, there's so much literature on the topic that I've heard quite a few times that there's nothing left to say. Enter Colson Whitehead's the Intuitionist, a book that manages to make the entire problem seem both familiar and alien at once.Whitehead's strategy is a brilliant one, the kind of idea that must have struck him at an odd moment, like in the dentist's chair or while listen [...]

    9. There was no one else to blame. The Intuitionist was my pick for a tandem read with my wife. We read it in a single day, one which left us bruised from all the cliches and the noir tropes which were further wrinkled with the riddle of race. I recall Mr. Whitehead was reported to have been spit upon by novelist Richard Ford. No, I wouldn't go that far. . .

    10. weather/travel/worlds-I read Whitehead's 'Zone One' for post-apocalyptic book club, and liked it - someone at our meeting recommended 'The Intuitionist' to me - but all they would say is 'Well, it's about elevator repairmen. But I think you would like it.'Admittedly, I didn't immediately think that reading about elevator repair sounded like the most thrilling activity. You may not be instantly hooked by that description. You might even think it sounds dull. Well, you would be wrong!'The Intuitio [...]

    11. All of the typical noir elements are here - the big, industrial city, menacing boss(es) playing dirty politics, muckraking reporter, servant with a trick up his sleeve, small-town girl in the big city. But nothing, not even a single description, is cliche. The main character is principled and smart, but she's so reserved that even the reader has to make some guesses at her emotional life. The plot is unpredictable - whimsical, jarring and scary, abstract for a while, mundane. I'm not sure the pa [...]

    12. Really interesting book. It is set in what seems a lot like New York City, though in what decade (or even century) is a little mysterious. Lila Mae Watson is the first black female elevator inspector (there is one older man who is the first black elevator inspector), working at a time when the Department of Elevator Inspectors is sharply divided between two approaches to the inspection of elevators: the Empirical approach, and the Intuitionist approach. When the unthinkable happens and an elevat [...]

    13. I am reading this for a class that I am taking on black postmodern fiction. The hallmarks of the postmodern style are there. It is clear that Whitehead read a fair amount of Pynchon and Barth due to the extensive presence of half-thoughts, sentence fragments, and commentary from the narrator. So, with regards to the class, I understand why it was assigned. On a personal level, I haven't been this bored reading a book in a while. I don't particularly like any of the characters. Lila Mae is rather [...]

    14. There are many things to like about Colson Whitehead’s first novel, The Institutionist: the prospect of reading about elevator inspectors (a subject, I’m pretty sure, no one has ever written about in fiction), the idealogical split between institutionist and empiricist inspectors (one group inspects elevators by observation and scrutiny, the other by ‘feel’. I’ll let you guess who does what), and elevators being a metaphor for almost everything important in life—“They go up, they g [...]

    15. Maybe more like a 4.5, but this book deserves to be rounded up, not down. Fabulous writing and wordplay, fabulous creation of a fascinating world that was almost real.This novel takes place in a past that didn't exist--where the Elevator Inspectors are revered, in a great city that has achieved verticality (and seems to be c1930 New York, or even 1950). Lila Mae Watson is the first colored woman (author's terminology) to achieve her badge as an elevator inspector--and she is in Intuitionist, wit [...]

    16. 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 tha [...]

    17. When Adam asked me what I was reading the other day, I responded, “It's called The Intuitionist. It's about race. And elevators.” He made a noise expressing both surprise and confusion, but pretty much left it alone. Like any good husband would, he reads my site. He knows he'll get better information out of me if he waits for the written version of my bookish thoughts. So here it is: Lila Mae Watson is an elevator inspector in a New York-ish city full of high rises. The time period is as mur [...]

    18. This is possibly one of the hardest books to describe I've ever read. It's set in the past (somewhere from the 20s to the 40s?) in a metropolis (New York?.) It's part noir-ish mystery, part speculative fiction. It's about elevators and also a metaphor for race in America. The writing is generally fantastic, although I admit to skimming some paragraphs laden with technical elevator talk. I'm glad I read it, but it's one of the most perplexing books I've ever read. Still, I liked it.

    19. 3.5. What a weird book! But wonderful! But overwritten. But still wonderful. You can see the seeds of The Underground Railroad here, I think.

    20. 5+ out of 5. What I wouldn't give to pick this book up in 1999 and get in on the ground floor, as it were, of Colson Whitehead. His prose here, even at the outset of his career, dances and delights; his storytelling is gifted and compelling; his eye is as keen and striking as it is all these years later. This is a masterful debut, a masterful novel, and a masterful story - one that kept a smile on my face every time I thought about it, every time I picked it up, even if the sequences I read were [...]

    21. I loved this book. I thought it was super imaginative in a bizarre way, setting up this complex world around something (elevator inspection) that is probably far more mundane. The extensive book long metaphor was fun to pick apart, and it was unsettling not knowing who was telling the truth. Didn't love the ending (kinda thought it was a bit of a cop out). Otherwise 👌🏻I had a fantastic teacher teach me this book, which helped me love it.

    22. DNF at 36% when it took an abrupt left turn into violent on-page torture. Just not in the mood for that.

    23. The Intuitionist is an odd little novel. The copy on the back cover does its best to make the story and tone of the book sound extra weird, while at the same time remaining fairly vague. And I suppose that's a fair representation of what you find inside. The novel's themes and even its setting make for a good jumping off point, but Whitehead continually does things in half measures.The setting, obviously NYC but pointlessly vague, reminded me quite a bit of Quinsigamond, from Jack O'Connell's si [...]

    24. Intuitionism and Empiricism reflects the quintessential struggles of two distinct schools of thought - the most notable that comes to mind is the classical and quantum interpretations of physics. One is old school, dependent on the physical perusal of the objects themselves, solid and true. The other is metaphysics distilled into a mystic philosophy of the true nature of elevators. Problem is one or another, they both work.Race relations are different today, but Whitehead writes that sometimes w [...]

    25. I'd have to spend some time and energy to truly explain what's so genius about this book, and that assumes I'm not missing a whole bunch of it's true brilliance. The plot summary would likely have most shaking their head, thinking, "What the fish?" It sounds absurd. In some ways, it's really absurd. Lots of room for interpretation here, but Whitehead is clearly tackling some major social topics and doing it with humor and a perceptive eye. If your interest isn't piqued by the thought that elevat [...]

    26. The writing itself is great. I do love a good allegory and am growing to love Colson Whitehead, although at times the connection in this, his first novel, between the schools of elevator thought and race relations seemed too vaguely drawn and other times too consciously connected. I wonder if this had been his tenth if it would've been different, though who am I to judge? Still, the dry wit is palpable at the Institute for Vertical Transport, where the Empiricists insist on visual inspections an [...]

    27. A peculiar halting noir with two main features. The story is one of mid-twentieth century type bigotry set in a Steampunk-like world where there are two battling philosophies on the nature and function of elevators, the Empiricists and the Intuitionists. The protagonist is an African-American Intuitionist elevator inspector-ess who takes the role of the detective and becomes something more than that. Among the author’s various accomplishments are the avoidance of all the puns and simple metaph [...]

    28. Written with a true love of the City, in this case an abstract, noir version of New York, the book posits a world in which the elevator has its own science and philosophy. In fact there are competing schools of Empiricists and Intuitionists, complete with their own thugs employed in the power struggles. Lila Mae Watson, the first "colored" elevator inspector, is a member of the latter school, and an unusual and appealing character. This is Whitehead's first novel and, given his great talent, you [...]

    29. Kaion says, "For sci-fi noir meets race noir, see Colson Whitehead's spectacular The Intuitionist," and I'm all whaaaaat, sign me up.

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