Alan's Reviews > The Intuitionist

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
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's review
Apr 19, 09

it was amazing
Recommended for: Those who suspect a hidden mechanism behind it all
Read in April, 2009 , read count: 2

Whitehead's first novel is about a fraternal conflict between rival philosophies of elevator inspection (!), and if that doesn't make you want to pick it up, I don't know what on earth would. It's a secret history (who would've thought elevator inspectors even had factions?), one of those crypto-historical narratives that could have happened while everyone else was looking the other way. Its backdrop is a great city, never named, that nevertheless could only be New York City in the mid-20th Century, a dark vision that made me think of Dark City (itself an excellent film, by the way, though you have to be in the right frame of mind to see it).

The Intuitionist is a book filled with nuance, many-layered... its black female protagonist belongs to the Intuitionists, you see, whose precarious position as a faction among the pale brotherhood of the Empiricists is analogous to her own hard-won place in their society. The Intuitionist... is quiet and observant, profound and brave. It is brilliant and, often, wise. Ruminative. Reading it will elevate you, if you let it.

Also worth seeking out: Whitehead's John Henry Days, a journalistic fish-out-of-water tale set in my own home state of West Virginia.

Note: Portions of this review are adapted from remarks I made long ago on my website.

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