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= The Novel =

I was a young (27) enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army when I wrote this novel, stationed in West Germany during the Cold War. The manuscript, cryptically titled Jon+Merile, gathered dust for forty years until I rediscovered it later in life in San Diego. That young author's voice should be heard. It's as fresh today as long ago. Youth and passion never dim--especially not when captured forever in a book, like a butterfly in amber. It is what it is--what it was--as I told it back then. It's life: a love story about Jon and Merile in 1973.

This coming of age story is about a passionate love affair between a 23-year-old idealistic, talented poet and a beautiful, neglected young married woman. Jon Harney graduated from an obscure college with a B.A. in English. He returned to his home city, New Haven, where his job status is Starving Artist. He barely makes a living mowing lawns and doing other odd jobs around Yale University while showing his poetry to semi-conscious editors in New York City.

Merile Doherty works at the university in some clerical concubinage while her husband Bill, an archeology professor, is far away in Australia on a dig for bones. Bill is often far away, even when he's home. He is usually Absent Without Emotional Leave (AWEL). There are melancholy reasons, Jon learns, why Merile stays with Bill. While on his dig in Upskate, Bill also digs the chicks in Sydney. One night he calls to tell Merile that they are through. He's fallen in love with an Australian woman, and is leaving Merile. That's before he calls Merile to tell her he isn't. When Merile meets Jon Harney, she is soooo ready to catch fire.

Jon Harney is a young, handsome man, between girlfriends, and starved for the emotional charge that Merile unknowingly has stored up like a battery waiting to discharge. Merile is his dream--the perfect woman. He falls totally in love with her, as she does with him. They are hungry young wolves who cannot get enough of each other. It's not just cosmic lust, but friendship, humor, and genuine affection. Such a coming of age novel written by a young poet (yours truly) must end in a melancholy twist. But that's life: a love affair. And what a ride. The novel is very much as I wrote it back then. I have changed as little as possible.

This edition is a streamlined e-book version containing only the novel, not the companion volume of poetry. I also uncovered my own long-lost selection of favorite verse (Cymbalist Poems). At 27, my career as a poet flared out. Charles Egeny left town. In a car/train crash of sudden insight, I realized forty years later that these two books belong together. They are twins, separated at birth, and finally reunited in twin print editions as well as the double e-book (27duet). This edition contains no extraneous introductions, rhapsodies about how I drove around Europe every weekend in my old orange VW van. The Cymbalist Poems can be found in separate editions (e or p), or together in the book 27duet. More info at the 27duet.com website.

The two years of my first enlistment were, in retrospect, an enchanted time. I'm glad I captured some of the glow in some of the poems. This novel is not about Europe, even though it was in my head on frequent weekend trips to Paris, Brussels, Heidelberg, and myriad other heroic vortices. This novel was written by a lonely young G.I., far from home, who missed a world he had loved and lost. I was in so many ways a typical G.I., except that I wrote novels and poetry at night in a moth-filled, haunted old Hitler-era barracks while listening to soft strains of Mozart. This was a retrospective, a glowing tribute, to my lost world in New Haven, my drinking buddies from high school, and the women with whom I shared passions quite like those of Jon Harney and Merile Doherty. At 27 I had not yet let go and moved on, despite Paris and Heidelberg. You never know what you've lost until you are far away, years later, writing fiction and poetry full of nostalgia.

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Jean-Thomas Cullen's novel and poems written at 27 in Europe while in the Army in 1976

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