sarahmichigan: (kitty)
[personal profile] sarahmichigan
"The Intuitionist" by Colson Whitehead. The novel is set in an alternate universe during a time when elevators and the Elevator Inspectors Guild are a huge influence in big cities, when black people are still called "colored" and integration is still a novel idea. Lila Mae Watson is the first black and female elevator inspector. She only wants to keep her head down and do a good job, but she gets caught in the political intrigue of the Guild, largely a war between the "empiricists" who insist on checking every mechanical detail and "intuitionists" who use indirect methods including meditation and almost Buddhist-like ideas such as "feeling the elvatorness of the elevator." When an elevator that Lila has recently inspected crashes, both sides use the incident as a football in their machinations. About the same time, there's a discovery that the founder of the "intuitionist" school of thought had  left behind a blueprint for a "black box," or the perfect elevator, and Lila becomes involved in the search for the black box as well as clearing her name of wrongdoing. It's a compelling read that works as commentary on race and on disruptive technologies. I plan to read more by Whitehead.


"The Monster of Florence: A True Story" by Douglas Preston, with Mario Spezi. The story is, ostensibly, about a serial killer terrorizing young lovers in the countryside around Florence in the 1970s and 1980s, but it is as much about judicial and police corruption in Italy as it is about the murder case. Preston is an American who comes into the case late in the game, after Italian journalist Spezi has been working on it for nearly 2 decades. They both get arrested for obstructing the official investigation and Spezi is even accused of possibly being the monster or being in league with the monster. If you're interested in the case but don't want to read the whole book, there's a Dateline episode avaialable on YouTube. I do recommend the book, though. It includes a lot of context for the case and its implications for freedom of the press in Italy.

My full comments on both books here.
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