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Posted June 20, 2001
I must admit that I have sometimes wondered, while waiting to reach my floor, about the elevator inspectors, that list of signatures and dates that is supposed to assure us that we won't plunge to our deaths. Colson Whitehead's first novel, The Intuitionist, is about these folks, in a sort of alternate City where elevators are indeed big business, with lobbyists and billboards and everything. The inspector in question is Lila Mae Watson, the city's first female, and second black, inspector. At the beginning she's framed for an elevator accident -- not only because she's a minority, but also because she's an Intuitionist. The department, and the industry, is split by a struggle between the Empricisits, who examine elevators, and the Intuitionists, who, well, intuit what's wrong. Funny thing is, the Intuitionists have a higher accuracy rate. If this sounds like a heavy handed allegory, it's not. Whitehead plays with the intersections of race, gender, and rationalism, and this is definitely a book that's about more than it's about. But The Intuitionist reads like a noir novel, if Sam Spade were given to mystical ruminations on elevators. It's both thoughtful and a good read: what more do you want from a first novel?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.