Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Intuitionist

I can honestly say, this is the best book about elevator inspectors I've ever read. This debut novel by Colson Whitehead follows Lila Mae Watson, the first African American female elevator inspector, in an unnamed time and place (probably 1950's or 1960's New York). Elevator inspection is very prestigious and Lila Mae takes her job seriously. She comes from the Intuitionist school of thought--she can "feel" what's wrong with the elevator. She's very good at it, too, until an elevator she recently inspected crashes in a total freefall. Lila Mae suspects sabotage and must figure out who did it. Along the way, she uncovers new information about her mentor and founder of the Intuitionists, Fulton. The whole novel is an allegory about race--the cover blurbs compare it to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. I liked the novel a lot, even if it tried to do too much in a couple of places. There's some dark humor and I really enjoyed Whitehead's writing style.

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