What Kind of Mind Is This?

From New York magazine’s profile of/hit piece on Cornel West:

He famously reads for two or three hours before bed, and he has astonishing recall. Even in casual conversation, he uses ‘every intellectual resource at hand,’ says Obery Hendricks, who is now a visiting Bible scholar at Columbia University. In private-study sessions with West at Princeton, Hendricks remembers, ‘He was able to seamlessly incorporate black vernacular, black music, with the deepest Western philosophical thinkers. Once we were talking about jazz, and he extemporaneously wanted to talk about the similarities between bebop and a particular moment in the Italian renaissance. I thought, What kind of mind is this? I couldn’t believe it.’ West’s protégés describe seeing themselves, under the tutelage of their mentor, not as intellectual piece workers, toiling in small antechambers, but as heirs to a great, broad tradition.

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