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The Intuitionist spielt in einem Amerika, in dem Fahrstühle sehr bedeutsam sind und regelmäßig kontrolliert werden müssen. Die Protagonistin Lila Mae Watson ist die erste schwarze Fahrstuhlinspekteurin. Außerdem hängt sie der umstrittenden Lehrer des "Intuitionismus" an, nach der man Fahrstühle intuitiv inspizieren sollte - tatsächlich ist sie die beste ihres Faches. Doch dann stütrzt ein Fahrstuhl, den sie inspizierte plötzlich komplett ab - War es Sabotage? Oder hat sie einen Fehler gemacht?
Das Setting ist schon einmal sehr ungewöhnlich und macht neugierig. Whitehhead vermischt in dem Buch dann mehrere Genres: Der Hintergrund erinnert deutlich an Mafia-Gangstergeschichten der 70er Jahre. Außerdem geht es auch in weiten Teilen um Rassentrennung und Rassismus. Hinzu kommt die Krimigeschichte (Wer hat den Fahrstuhl sabotiert) und die große Schatzsuchfrage, um die es im zweiten Teil geht. Das ganze verpackt Whitehead dann immer wieder in subtilem Humor, insbesondere wenn es um die "Fahrstuhlphilosophie" geht, die ganz klar eine Satire auf Literaturkritik u.ä. ist.
Mir hat das Buch -wie man an der Wertung sieht - sehr gefallen. Ich lese aber auch gerne ungewöhnliche Bücher. Es ist eines der Bücher, auf die man sich einlassen muss, aber da der Stil nicht zu anstrengend ist, fällt das hier leicht!
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am 4. Mai 2014
Colson Whitehead creates a strange and weird world in which
empiricists and intuitionists battle for control of the department of
elevator inspectors. Corruption, secrets and power struggles abound,
and the mob operates in the background. In this unreal world, one can
find everything from serious commentary on society to frivolous
humor. I didn't tear through the book, but I ultimately enjoyed it
very much. At times, the juxtaposition of utter seriousness and
frivolity didn't fit my mood, and I would put it down, and later pick
it up again. But that was my subjective reaction at the time of
reading. There is no doubt that this is highly original and creative
work. There will presumably be a strong correletion between the degree
to which a person enjoys reading weird stories set in an unreal world
and the degree to which a person will enjoy this book.
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am 12. April 2000
A screaming comes across the sky: a book, a snapped elevator cable...it's Colson Whitehead! How did this guy get so incredibly good, so young? His meticulously-crafted, ashy-grey midcentury metropolis looms up like something out of Hopper by way of Pynchon; the central metaphor of upward mobility - which could be so godawful mawkish - is never handled any less than deftly; the protagonist wears the weight of her overdetermination proudly, despite every conceivable undermining. I leave the details to the intrepid reader, but I've simply got to sing the praises of those stretches - where Whitehead's characters contemplate "the second elevation" that will transfigure the cities and the citizens of the day after tomorrow - whose sweep and pellucid elegance rival anything in the best science fiction for sending chills ricocheting up & down my spine. If race (understood narrowly as the black/white dichotomy) is still & always the central American dilermma, maximum kudos to Whitehead for finding a new metaphor with which to approach it. Buy it, read it, pass it on to those two or three of your friends you can always trust to really *get* stuff: this is where 21st century American Literature starts. (And they better be teaching this book as such, dammit, not ghettoize it to Ethic Studies.)
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am 5. April 2000
There's a lot more going on here than one would think. This thoroughly original novel is not so easy to classify either. I don't think that Whitehead meant us to see the Empiricist/Intuitionist division as entirely black and white issue. Whitehead uses the period term "colored" throughout the book as well and it is not just a historical word choice, in my opinion. After all, not all the Intuitionists are black. Gould - the escalator expert - is a redheaded Irish American and chooses to side with the Intuitionist camp. And even the role of characters like Marie Claire Rogers (the black mistress/domestic of Fulton) is being overlooked by other readers/reviewers. Marie Claire clearly does not like what Lila Mae stands for and accuses her of playing a role, wearing a uniform that makes her someone other than who she should be in Marie's eyes. And Lila Mae continues to put on other uniforms and play other roles throughout the novel in a kind of search for her place in this anonymous metropolis populated with schemers and plotters. What I like most about this book is it's menacing atmosphere, a subtly sinister air that colors each incident, each meeting, each exchange between characters in shades of deceit, mistrust and duplicity. This is like a literary marriage between Dashiell Hammett and Ralph Ellison. However, I fail to find anything riotously funny here. Whitehead's style is witty and biting at times, but there is nothing knee-slapping, howlingly funny here. Those who do find this some kind of ha-ha comedy are most likely the people Whitehead is warning us about.
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am 4. Dezember 1999
Imagine a black and white world lifted from an old Borgart movie. Imagine mean streets imported from a Raymond Chandler novel leading to a big city called 1950's Somewhere, USA. Imagine Pleasantville, but with smog. Colson's world is like a coat sleeve that was inverted half way-part of this world you readily recognize, the other half is a spooky reflection. You know you have seen it before but can't quite place where. The Intuitionist reads like a fable from another world that magically tells our worlds history.
The Intuitionists have committed an ideological insurrection against the Empiricists by using the controversial "Intuitionist" method of ascertaining elevator safety. In this eerily familiar alternative world, elevators rarely fail, so the contention between the two factions appears to be the proverbial "Tempest in a Teapot." However, this is a story about vested interests and how such interests impede progress, how they will wage a costly war over valueless turf. This is a story about self-preservation when evolution is clearly arguing for extinction.
Colson's prose is a skin that defines the form of some famished and untamed beast. I have seen this creature hiding in the type font shadows, crouched, and ready to spring up at us from the base of every paragraph. The exact symmetry of this beast I can't say, but that it is angry, I have no doubt.
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Whitehead's first novel provides a fascinating, if frightening, view of life in the last years of the twentieth century. At the same time it makes accesssible to the educated general public many concepts that have been the source of bitter fights in the academic world for the past few years, if not centuries, or even millennia.
Whitehead has drawn on an impressive amount of background material in creating this book, and demonstrates a competent grasp of current social, political, and intellectual issues. Anyone who sees the book's inspiration as specific to one writer or one novel has been oblivious to the Science Wars that have been raging in the academic world for the past few years, no participant of which is invisible, although some are men. More than a few science warriors would advise us to use the term "person" for any participant.
Whitehead's book paints a sophisticated picture of the Science Wars and the Academic Left. Readers who are not aware of those topics can browse the internet, which has a massive amount of information, much of it highly emotional and some verbally abusive. Most persons would be better off to read Gross and Levitt's "Higher Superstition", published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Those few who want to delve more deeply into the philosophical issues might want to read Dummett's "Elements of Intuitionism", published by the Oxford University Press as part of its "Oxford Logic Guide", or Cleve's "A Study of Logics", (that is not a typo: the last word in the title is plural) in the same OUP series.
"Oh, for a Tom Wolf to write a satirical novel about these folk!" wrote Evans M. Harrell II in the October 1996 issue of "Notices of the AMS (American Mathematical Society)". In the opinion of this reviewer, Whitehead's novel has exceeded Harrel's expectations. Let's hope that the book can be enjoyed on as many intellectual levels as it was written. Congratulations to the author for an impressive multi-level novel.
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am 2. Dezember 1998
Booklist (starred) "Whitehead's debut novel can claim a literary lineage that includes Orwell, Ellison, Vonnegut, and Pynchon, yet it is resoundingly original ... The story is mesmerizing, but it is Whitehead's shrewd and sardonic humor and agile explications of the insidiousness of racism and the eternal conflict between the material and the spiritual that make this such a trenchant and accomplished novel."
Walter Mosley, author DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS "THE INTUITIONIST is the story of a love affair with the steel and stone, machinery and architecture of the city. It's not a pretty love, but a working class passion for the stench of humanity that its heroine, Lila Mae Watson has made her own. But as always with love there is betrayal. This extraordinary novel is the first voice in a powerful chorus to come."
The Utne Reader "Whitehead's brilliant, funny, poetic first novel, THE INTUITIONIST depicts a skewed film-noirish urban universe ... The style he creates to portray this world is equally intricate and rich - a supple, jazzy instrument that can swing from deadpan satirical fantasy to straight-ahead portrayal of the pain and stoicism of black people living in a ham-fisted white world."
Spin "... an elegant, erudite take on the sci-fi staples of science vs. humanity and head vs. heart."
Jonathan Lethem, author AS SHE CLIMBED ACROSS THE TABLE. "This splendid novel reads as though a stray line in Pynchon or Millhauser had been meticulously unfolded to reveal an entire world, one of spooky, stylish, alternate-Americana, as rich and haunted as our own. The care and confidence of the prose, the visionary metaphor beating like a heart at the center - these do not outweigh the poignancy and humor, the human presence here. THE INTUITIONIST rises someplace new, and very special."
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am 26. April 2000
My book group chose this book. Were I not committed to this group of people I would have never made it past page 10. I could never figure out what the book was trying to be. A thriller? No, the exhaustive level of description quickly put to death any hint of tension. A character study? No, the characters and conflict are all over the top caricatures. A story about elevators? No, as an engineer I can say with confidence that all pseudo-technical passages were gibberish. I could not help but be impressed (or maybe intimidated) with the frequency of impressively difficult words. But even this was a distraction. It was as though the book were a writing exercise where each chapter had to use five obscure words from a vocabulary builder list. I kept up hope that Colin was using elevators/intuitionist/empricist as a metaphor that would soon be revealed and I would bow in awe to his creative genius. Instead I was just glad it was over. Now the hard part will be to think up something nice to say before the next book group meeting.
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am 22. August 1999
But I'll shelve this one and wait until I've forgotten about it beforehitting it again.
Like many of you, I heard about this book on an NPR review - which may be the best barometer of books that will be worth my while reading. This book may be like old REM lyrics ... plow too deeply into any one thread of the words and you run the risk of getting off track.
For me, the black/white story was clear and simple enough and well-told ... Lila Mae's stuggle to advance as a black woman in a white male world was deftly told without excessive harangue (sp?).
As for the Empiricist/Intuitionist superplot, I felt like it was ornate decoration that helped tell the story, buut was never meant to take the place of the story on the surface. Why elevators? Maybe like the reviewer above, Whitehead was fascinated with them? Why deep philosophy about elevator inspection? Maybe a metaphor about faith set in the otherwise faithless world the author's created.
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am 22. August 1999
But I'll shelve this one and wait until I've forgotten about it beforehitting it again.
Like many of you, I heard about this book on an NPR review - which may be the best barometer of books that will be worth my while reading. This book may be like old REM lyrics ... plow too deeply into any one thread of the words and you run the risk of getting off track.
For me, the black/white story was clear and simple enough and well-told ... Lila Mae's stuggle to advance as a black woman in a white male world was deftly told without excessive harangue (sp?).
As for the Empiricist/Intuitionist superplot, I felt like it was ornate decoration that helped tell the story, buut was never meant to take the place of the story on the surface. Why elevators? Maybe like the reviewer above, Whitehead was fascinated with them? Why deep philosophy about elevator inspection? Maybe a metaphor about faith set in the otherwise faithless world the author's created.
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