The Intuitionist

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The Intuitionist

by Colson Whitehead

Samhita Productions | December 29, 1998 | Hardcover

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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.

A dead-serious and seriously funny feat of the imagination, The Intuitionist is a brilliant debut by an exceptional young talent.  Its sidesplitting humor is accompanied by a sobering examination of race--how it causes people to act and what it causes them to believe about themselves and others.  In the tradition of Ralph Ellison, Colson Whitehead artfully crosses back and forth over racial, political, and artistic borders to create a work of stunning depth,  soulfulness, and originality, starring one of the most intriguing heroines in contemporary fiction.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 272 pages

Published: December 29, 1998

Publisher: Samhita Productions

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385492995

ISBN - 13: 9780385492997

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

The Intuitionist

by Colson Whitehead

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 272 pages

Published: December 29, 1998

Publisher: Samhita Productions

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385492995

ISBN - 13: 9780385492997

Read from the Book

It''s a new elevator, freshly pressed to the rails, and it''s not built to fall this fast. * * * She doesn''t know what to do with her eyes. The front door of the building is too scarred and gouged to look at, and the street behind her is improbably empty, as if the city had been evacuated and she''s the only one who didn''t hear about it. There is always the game at moments like this to distract her. She opens her leather field binder and props it on her chest. The game gets harder the farther back she goes. Most of the inspectors from the last decade or so are still with the Guild and are easy to identify: LMT, MG, BP, JW. So far she doesn''t particularly like the men who have preceded her at 125 Walker. Martin Gruber chews with his mouth open and likes to juggle his glass eye. Big Billy Porter is one of the Old Dogs, and proud of it. On many occasions Lila Mae has returned to the Pit from an errand only to hear Big Billy Porter regaling the boys about the glory days of the Guild, before. While his comments are never specific, it is clear to everyone just what and who Big Billy is referring to in his croak ing, muddy voice. Rebellious among the bureaucratic rows of the Pit, Big Billy''s oak desk juts out into the aisle so he can seat his bulk directly beneath one of the ceiling fans. He says he overheats easily and on the hottest days of the summer his remaining hair slides away from how he''s combed it, the strands easing into nautilus whorls. It''s a slow process and watc
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From the Publisher

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.

A dead-serious and seriously funny feat of the imagination, The Intuitionist is a brilliant debut by an exceptional young talent.  Its sidesplitting humor is accompanied by a sobering examination of race--how it causes people to act and what it causes them to believe about themselves and others.  In the tradition of Ralph Ellison, Colson Whitehead artfully crosses back and forth over racial, political, and artistic borders to create a work of stunning depth,  soulfulness, and originality, starring one of the most intriguing heroines in contemporary fiction.

About the Author

Colson Whitehead was born in New York City in 1969.  His journalism has appeared in Vibe, Spin, Newsday, and The Village Voice, where he was a television columnist.  A graduate of Harvard College, he currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

From Our Editors

Lila Mae Watson is the first black female elevator inspector in her department; she is also an Intuitionist. She is able to simply walk into an elevator, meditate, and sense if there are any defects, unlike the Empiricists in her department, who dutifully go by the book. Lila Mae also has the highest accuracy rate in her department. But she is thrown into turmoil when an elevator freefalls during her watch. Coincidentally, excerpts from the lost notebooks of Intuitionism's founder appear, sending Lila Mae underground to investigate the crash and find the missing portions of the notebooks. Incredibly humorous and imaginative, The Intuitionist challenges contemporary institutions and industry.

Editorial Reviews

"Highly imaginative and stylish." -- Vanity Fair "Whitehead''s debut novel can claim a literary lineage that includes Orwell, Ellison, Vonnegut, and Pynchon, yet is it resoundingly original. . .The story is mesmerizing, but it is Whitehead''s shrewd and sardonic humor and agile explications of the insidiousness of racism and the eternal conflict between the material and the spiritual that make this such a trenchant and accomplished novel." -- Booklist "A dizzingly-high-concept debut of genuine originality, despite its indebtedness to a specific source, ironically echoes and amusingly inverts Ralph Ellison''s classic Invisible Man . . .A many-leveled narrative equally effective as a detective story and philosophical novel.  Ralph Ellison would be proud." -- Kirkus Reviews "Meaty and mythic. . .Whitehead has created a self-contained universe in this novel, complete with its own mythology and history. . .He has a completely original story to tell, and he tells it well, successfully intertwining multiple plot lines and keeping his reader intrigued from the outset." -- Publishers Weekly "Dark, smart, funny." -- Details "An elegant, erudite take on the sci-fi staples of science vs. humanity and head vs. heart." -- Spin "Brilliant, funny, poetic. . .a complex mix of contemporary issues and the urban imagery of 40 years ago. . .The style [Whitehead] creates to portray this world is equally intricate and rich--
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