Posted by: Matt | November 15, 2007

The Intuitionist

The Intuitionist
Colson Whitehead
255 pgs.

The Intuitionist is a strange story about Lila Mae Watson, an inspector with the Department of Elevator Inspectors. Unlike most inspectors she is in the Intuitionist camp, which means that she can discover any problems with an elevator simply by riding it. This unorthodox method and her gender and race (black) make her standout in a department full of good ol’ boys. Unfortunately for Lila Mae, her differences work to her disadvantage when an elevator that she has just recently inspected goes into free fall. Now she must investigate the accident, in order to clear her name, and its ties to the upcoming election for head of the Department of Elevator Inspectors.

Obviously Colson Whitehead has come up with an original idea. Who would think to write a novel about elevator inspectors? What makes it even more unique is the seriousness with which he writes the story. It is written very matter-of-factly, as if the Department of Elevator Inspectors is commonly known to exist in every city.

Unfortunately the book just didn’t work for me. It was mildly entertaining, there is nothing really wrong with it, it just didn’t stand out to me. I expected a story this unique to really grab me, show me some genius. But it just never did. There is nothing wrong with Whitehead’s prose, maybe with a different plot I’d be more impressed.

The Intuitionist runs along, not outstanding, but not boring, just there. Its greatest weakness is that after finishing it I still feel like I had not really read it. It ran through me like water.

Rating: 2.5



  1. I have to ask. What made you pick up a book about Elevator Inspectors?? Personally, I don’t really like elevators anyway. I’m a wee bit claustraphobic. And always have that slight fear of plummeting to the ground!! I don’t really think this one is for me!

  2. Stephanie – Because it sounded like a fun, quirky book; it had gotten good reviews; and it was recommended by Nancy Pearl!

  3. I have this slight book on my shelf waiting to be read; I bought it based on the quirky premise as well. I doubt I’ll be getting around to it for a while, but I hope it makes more of an impression on me, but we’ll see.

  4. J.S. Peyton – I hope that you enjoy it more than I did also. It seems to have gotten fairly mixed reviews so maybe you’ll be on the other side.

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