The Vertical Legacy of Colson Whitehead’s ‘The Intuitionist’

March 23, 2022 | 1 book mentioned 1

At Ploughshares, Neil Serven looks back on Colson Whitehead‘s debut novel, The Intuitionist, which follows Lila Mae Watson, an elevator inspector in an unnamed city full of skyscrapers in need of vertical transportation. “The world of The Intuitionist is similarly one of darkness and corruption, and the anonymity within manages to turn it darker and Lila Mae’s journey lonelier. […] Lila Mae’s way of speaking is wary, compressed with impatience, as though not wanting to give anything away to the personalities she must navigate. This is survival. Over twenty years after its initial publication, The Intuitionist’s message remains relevant: it’s a wise critique of ambition and ‘progress’ and the dark spaces that exist in the in-between.”

is a writer and illustrator. She is the author of two illustrated books, Last Night's Reading (Penguin Books, 2015) and Sanpaku (Archaia 2018).

One comment:

  1. The book first appeared a publishing off-season. Which in a way helped me spot it, buy and read it. It is brilliant, unique. I was in a small Southern town visiting in-laws at Christmas time, and I was going a bit nutty. Small house, little privacy, TV going from waking until bedtime, loudly. Ever seen Turtleman on the History Station? Every episode. Movies from 10 yrs ago that in any other context I’d have no interest in, but here…riveting. So my wife and I escaped to the only big-box bookstore in town, uh, region. But it had a cafe and magazines and The Intuitionist, hardcover, maybe 2 copies. Sort of like the early Richard Powers books that would role out in the summer. I’d welcome another novel from Whitehead in that register…imaginative, counter-factual but not sci-fi, not remotely.

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