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The Intuitionist

Colson Whitehead

Top 10 Best Quotes

“It is failure that guides evolution; perfection provides no incentive for improvement, and nothing is perfect.”

“What does the perfect elevator look like, the one that will deliver us from the cities we suffer now, these stunted shacks? We don't know because we can't see inside it, it's something we cannot imagine, like the shape of angels' teeth. It's a black box.”

“There will be no redemption because the men who run this place do not want redemption. They want to be as near to hell as they can.”

“The Four Questions?” “As put forth by Mettleheim: How did this happen? How could this happen? Is it exceptional? How will it be avoided in the future?”

“But who can resist the seductions of elevators these days, those stepping stones to Heaven, which make relentless verticality so alluring?”

“They will have to destroy this city once we deliver the black box. The current bones will not accommodate the marrow of the device. They will have to raze the city and cart off the rubble to less popular boroughs and start anew.”

“The lobby of the Fanny Briggs Memorial Building was almost finished when she arrived. As if to distract from the minuscule and cramped philosophy of what would transpire on the floors above, the city offered visitors the spacial bounty of the lobby. The ersatz marble was firm underfoot like real marble, sheer, and produced trembling echoes effortlessly. The circle of Doric columns braced the weight above without complaint. The mural, however, was not complete. It started out jauntily enough to Lila Mae’s left. Cheerless Indians holding up a deerskin in front of a fire. The original tenants, sure. A galleon negotiating the tricky channels around the island. Two beaming Indians trading beads to a gang of white men—the infamous sale of the Island. Big moment, have to include that, the first of many dubious transactions in the city’s history. (They didn’t have elevators yet. That’s why the scenes look so flat to Lila Mae: the city is dimensionless.) The mural jumped to the Revolution then, she noticed, skipped over a lot of stuff. The painter seemed to be making it up as he went along, like the men who shaped the city. The Revolution scene was a nice setpiece—the colonists pulling down the statue of King George III. They melted it down for ammunition, if she remembers correctly. It’s always nice when a good mob comes together. The painting ended there. (Someone knocks at the door of her room in 117 Second Avenue, but she doesn’t open her eyes.) Judging from the amount of wall space that remained to Lila Mae’s right, the mural would have to get even more brief in its chronicle of the city’s greatest hits. Either the painter had misjudged how much space he had or the intervening years weren’t that compelling to him. Just the broad strokes, please.”

“She watches the people through the sooted panes. They walk slower than they do when she reports to work and when she leaves work, and differently still from weekend strolling. They are the tin men and rag dolls who wake after hours in the toy store.”

“No, Fulton was colored. She understands this luminous truth. Natchez did not lie about that: she has seen it in the man’s books, made plain by her new literacy. In the last few days she has learned how to read, like a slave does, one forbidden word at a time.”

“At ninety, everything is air and the difference between you and the medium of your passage is disintegrating with every increment of the ascension.”

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Book Keywords:

perfection, evolutionre, redemption, hell, control, evolution, improvement

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