The Intuitionist Colson Whitehead

Read Along With Us: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

I’m excited to announce our summer book club read! Most of you know I choose a book that I think you will enjoy AND that I haven’t read. This season is no different. Intuition is a concept I’ve been thinking through for a while in various forms and occasionally comes up in our conversations as well.

We’ll be reading The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead together during the month of July and discussing it in August.

Colson Whitehead wrote The Underground Railroad, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. This book was read around the globe, and won many other prestigious awards, including the National Book Award, the Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and the Heartland Prize, among others.

While book clubs all over the world tapped into the zeitgeist to dig into The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead’s debut novel, The Intuitionist, is much lesser known.

Walter Kirn, novelist, essayist, and literary critic, calls The Intuitionist, “The freshest racial allegory since Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.”

This book was published in 1999, but it only crept onto my radar last year when N. Katherine Hayles dedicated a chapter to discussing it in her new work: Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious.

Here is the synopsis:

It is a time of calamity in a major metropolitan city’s Department of Elevator Inspectors, and Lila Mae Watson, the first black female elevator inspector in the history of the department, is at the center of it. There are two warring factions within the department: the Empiricists, who work by the book and dutifully check for striations on the winch cable and such; and the Intuitionists, who are simply able to enter the elevator cab in question, meditate, and intuit any defects.

Lila Mae is an Intuitionist and, it just so happens, has the highest accuracy rate in the entire department. But when an elevator in a new city building goes into total freefall on Lila Mae’s watch, chaos ensues. It’s an election year in the Elevator Guild, and the good-old-boy Empiricists would love nothing more than to assign the blame to an Intuitionist. But Lila Mae is never wrong.

The sudden appearance of excerpts from the lost notebooks of Intuitionism’s founder, James Fulton, has also caused quite a stir. The notebooks describe Fulton’s work on the “black box,” a perfect elevator that could reinvent the city as radically as the first passenger elevator did when patented by Elisha Otis in the nineteenth century. When Lila Mae goes underground to investigate the crash, she becomes involved in the search for the portions of the notebooks that are still missing and uncovers a secret that will change her life forever.”

I’m honored to read, think, and grow with you all, and look forward to connecting through our discussions of this book. You can find the book in paperback, audio, or electronic format on our Book Oblivion Book Club list HERE.

If you haven’t yet, I invite you to join our private Facebook Group. We read one book a season and discuss it together there. In between reads, we discuss all things books, so please feel free to bring and share your passion for literature and philosophy.

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Welcome to Book Oblivion’s Online Book Club, a free group hosted by Jessica S. Manuel.
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