©1999 Colson Whitehead; (P)2000 Recorded Books
I follow Colson Whitehead on Twitter, where his steady and lively bon mots pepper you from all different angles of the universe. My thought was a novel from a writer that bright and fresh should be equally worthwhile, and indeed it was. The book is a treatise on the meaning and perceptions of life and flutters between a straight forward plot and what could almost be fanciful Asimov musings on humanity without quite leaving known reality. The plot itself is not particularly relevant and serves mostly as a giant Macguffin allowing Whitehead to focus laser-like on race relations and color perceptions at certain times through complex metaphors and at other times with simple straight talk. I find Colson's writing fresh, fun and light-hearted even when addressing dense and dramatic issues and this is where the pleasure of the novel came through. The plot itself was neither here nor there, and the bitter taste race was just out of reach; but the reason to get this book is to simply enjoy Whitehead's writing and fresh turns of phrase. I came away not quite sure exactly what it was I had gotten through, but missed it all the same. The narration and audio are excellent and first rate. Good stuff, recommended.
The Intuitonist is one of those rare books that works as a page turning whodunit as well as a real interesting book about ideas. Colson Whitehead has a real original voice that borders on satire (Vonnegut, Ellson's 'Invisible Man') but has characters that are fully realized and not grotesques or representative of an idea or concept (a issue that hinders satire sometimes). There is a real sly comedy in this book that reminded me of that movie 'Brazil' or 'Modern Times' man can not contain its own beuracracy and technology as well as some social commentary.
The book involves an elevator accident and the world of elevator inspectors (any one in a trade or specialized field will appreciate how Whitehead creates a macro culture for elevator inspector) and how different inspectors use different methods (intution vs emperical). Just this plot point alone gives readers a real interesting theme to chew on (the eternal struggle of intuition vs empericism) but suddenly an additional theme is added via plot twist (one of the only times I remember a change in theme had the same gut wallop of a cool plot twist) and the reader is left with he last hour being are a brilliant exercise in satire/social commentary.
The narration is good.
An excellent book by an exciting new writter
I downloaded the book from Audible.com and could not put it down. Not surprisingly like any good novel, I found myself emotionally moved by the story and perspective.
It had a few technical errors, but still a good read. Well done.
I read nothing that is popular.
"The Intuitionist" is a top notch read. It's pretty much about elevator inspectors, which one of them is black and also a woman when race was an issue back then. The different floors in the department is not a straight forward read, but more like different dreams in each floor for Lila Mae. It's really hard to explain it. The entire story feels like a metaphor for racism at the time. It's not like The Help or The Color Purple, but its more subtle. Great writing from Colson Whitehead.
The Intuitionist is a strange book – part mystery, part philosophical musing, part political something.
The parallel that struck me in listening to it was with Brett Easton Ellis’ Glamorama. In Glamorama (another strange book), it comes to the point where everyone in the book is a model, or connected with modeling in some way or other. In The Intuitionist, the inescapable connection is with elevators. Almost every character is an elevator inspector or someone who depends directly on elevators or the elevator inspectors in some way. Even the only school mentioned is the Institute for Vertical Transport – a school whose entire curriculum is geared around inspecting and maintaining elevators.
Lila Mae Watson is the first black woman to become an elevator inspector in a famous city that has to be New York. In her time and place, there are two schools of thought regarding the best way to inspect elevators – empiricism and intuitionism. Empiricists look at the nuts and bolts and cables of elevators to see if they are properly installed and maintained. Intuitionists apparently just sense what is going on – feel the vibes, as it were – and know if something is wrong and what it is. Lila Mae is an Intuitionist, and she is never wrong.
The problem is, a new elevator in a new city building crashes – goes into freefall and is utterly destroyed – less than twenty-four hours after she has inspected it and passed it as ok. This happens in the thick of an election for the head of the elevator inspectors’ union, a contest between an empiricist candidate (the incumbent) and an intuitionist candidate. In this world, somewhat contrary to the usual practice, to be head of the union is also to be head of the municipal department of elevator inspectors. At first, it appears that the elevator has been sabotaged by the empiricists and that Lila Mae has been set up to take the fall for the failure.
There follows a long round of encounters with gangland thug types related to both sides of the struggle, and another sabotage. There are also some flashbacks to Lila Mae’s time in school at the Institute for Vertical Transport, and a lot of reflecting on the theory of elevators, especially as put forth by the hero of the Intuitionists, a certain James Fulton, and the Black Box he proposed as the perfect elevator. Lila Mae is unexpectedly drawn into an attempt to find Fulton’s missing notebooks relating to this Black Box, and in the process, she uncovers the real meaning both of the failed elevator and of the violence surrounding it, and it’s not what she, or we, thought it was.
"I love this book!"
When I heard of his "Underground Railway" I knew I had to explore Colson Whitehead's work. For me this earlier work is a rich conceit expressed elegantly and with a rare passionate intensity. A classic!
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