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“Nothing we create works the way it should.” Colson Whitehead’s first novel, The Intuitionist, blends allegory, fantasy, metaphysics, and suspense to ponder the ways man’s creations machinery, cities, institutions, politics, race, class subvert and betray. His elegant prose and visionary metaphors recall Ellison and Kafka. In the Department of Elevator Inspectors of an unnamed American metropolis, two factions compete for ascendancy: Empiricists, who examine elevators by traditional means, and the upstart Intuitionists, “witch doctors” who find faults by feeling elevators’ vibrations. When an elevator inspected by Lila Mae Watson, the department’s first black female inspector and a staunch Intuitionist, goes into total free fall, the old boys in the department immediately blame her and Intuitionism, but it’s not that simple. Lila Mae’s quest for truth and vindication uncovers an underworld maze of double-crossing and lies. Colson Whitehead reads and signs copies of his book at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 429-9272. (Dawn L. Hannaham)