September 5th, 2016

city Hall

The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead

I was intrigued by the idea -- an alternate earth where the guild of elevator repairmen is a big deal, and a story that (I was told) would shed light on race in America. But it just didn't quite deliver for me. Set in a nameless NYC-esque city in a roughly 1930s or 1940s era. Lila Mae Watson is the first black female elevator inspector (and one of very few black inspectors) and then something goes terribly wrong on a brand new elevator that passed her inspection. She investigates on her own and gets involved in internal politics, and the mysteries surrounding the founding of the Intuitionist school of elevator repair. I liked the loopy-but-recognizable alternate earth, and certainly the story felt accurate in what the black experience might have been like in such a place and time, but I don't really think it had much to say, and much of the ultimate resolution was unsatisfying. The book has drawn comparisons to Ellison's The Invisible Man, which I can see. Course, I didn't like that, either.