The Intuitionist

The Intuitionist

Book - 1999
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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.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 1999
Edition: 1st Anchor Books ed
ISBN: 9780385492997
Characteristics: 255 p. ; 22 cm


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Jan 11, 2020

Near reality sci-fi is my favorite kind and I really got into this suspenseful world where elevator inspectors, of all things, have great importance. Feels simultaneously retro and futuristic. And of course, Whitehead is just great at prose.

Oct 28, 2019

A strange debut novel about elevators from the Pulitzer-winning author of "Underground Railroad." Has a similar feel and sense of humor as "Being John Malkovich," which came out the same year.

Sep 17, 2019

I loved this author's Underground Railroad, and was so happy to finally get this in my hands. Very textured, creative, NOIR alternate NYC is amazingly detailed and visualized. I took a half star off my perfect rating just cuz I'm not very good with 'literary fiction' and this book kept swinging between potboiler and poetry in a way that sometimes lost me. Definitely not the author's fault - I'll ditto the reviewer above who wants to take a lit class in order to hear people unpack this for me.

Apr 03, 2019

Loved this alternate dimension! Vertical transport will ever be the same to me. Two thumbs up!

Mar 11, 2017

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 that to be helpful in any way. ;)

SFPL_danielay Dec 27, 2014

I never would have thought elevator inspection could be so thrilling. A funny, thoughtful, exciting read.

Aug 13, 2014

I wanted to love it. I really loved Sag Harbor and Zone One. I enjoy his writing style and prose but I just could not for life of me get into this piece at all.


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