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A Fifth Serious Man: Allen Mendenhall

April 8, 2021

Allen Mendenhall’s The Southern Philosopher a collection of essays by John William Corrington was published in 2017 and I wrote a review of that book for the now defunct Anamnesis Journal.

I first encountered William Corrington when in the 1970s the serial librarian at the college in New Rochelle, New York, where I was teaching brought to my attention an essay on modern Gnosticism by John William Corrington.

Bill Corrington became my friend and colleague from a very different part of the scholarly spectrum from mine, but we both appreciated the work of Eric Voegelin and that led to the conduct of a seminar at Vanderbilt University on “Gnosticism and Modernity.”

Bill was teaching English at Loyola University-New Orleans, then quit college teaching to earn a law degree from Tulane and was recruited by a Hollywood producer, Roger Corman, to write scripts for feature films. He went on to write TV serials for Proctor & Gamble and did well financially.

But the influence of Eric Voegelin never declined and especially Voegelin’s analysis of the “gnostic” nature of modernity.

When I got to know Mendenhall, I was astonished that a mere attorney had the interest and literary skill to identify Corrington’s genius and, though Mendenhall is now a law school Dean, write a novel.

Mendenhall is the fifth conservative scholar to be featured in a Zoom discussion about narrative fiction on April 13.

Mendenhall’s novel titled A Glooming Peace This Morning will be published next year by Livingston Press, an imprint of the University of West Alabama Press.

Narrated in the first person by “Cephas,” who recounts childhood events in the 1970s in the fictional town of Andalusia, within the fictional Magnolia County, A Glooming Peace This Morning is a “look back” novel that tells the story of the improbable, forbidden love between Tommy Cox and Sarah Warren.  

A mysterious illness brings Tommy and Sarah together. Tommy has an intellectual disability, and his relationship with Sarah leads to a heated trial that stirs up the entire town. His prosecution and conviction turn on whether he could have, under the law, formed the requisite intent to be found guilty of the crime with which he’s charged. 

Throughout the novel, Cephas and his friends—chiefly Lump, Brett, and Michael—get into trouble as they struggle to come to terms with their growing knowledge of Tommy and Sarah’s intimate relationship. Along the way they learn about justice, truth, lust, and love, and meet several wildly believable characters. 

Like Bill Corrington, Mendenhall is an attorney and writer from the American South. I’ve never spoken to Mendenhall but imagine that his accent is as thick as most natives of ‘Bama. We’ll find out on April 13.  

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