Everyone knows the story of Cornel West, Princeton’s Class of 1943 University Professor in the Center for African American Studies: West teaches at Harvard, then-Harvard president Larry Summers tells West that he’s concerned about West’s scholarly output, West takes offense, West comes to Princeton earlier this decade. Big coup for Princeton!
West has recently been making the rounds promoting his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, that he co-wrote with David Ritz. In response, Scott McLemee, a columnist for Inside Higher Ed, recently wrote a scathing review of West’s latest book. He writes:
Cornel West’s work was once bold, challenging, exciting. The past tense here is unavoidable. His critical edge and creative powers might yet be reborn (he is 56). But in the wake of his latest book, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, this hope requires a considerable leap of faith. Published by Hay House, the book also bears a second subtitle: “A Memoir.” It is the most disappointing thing I have read in at least a year.
McLemee criticizes West for (you guessed it) his lack of academic output in the past decade and points out instances in the book where he believes West is simply self-congratulating himself, not unlike a celebrity would. The writer later concludes:
It is clearly time for Cornel West to take himself to the woodshed — and not for a weekend either.
Ouch. Unfortunately for McLemee, West has reached iconic status here at Princeton. He’s untouchable.