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Young Soldier in Cold War Europe & Nostalgia


Nostalgia. During the first half of my twenties, I finished college and then lived as a starving artist in New Haven, CT plus hitch-hiked all over the U.S. while writing poetry and novels. During the second half of my twenties, I was a young enlisted soldier stationed in Kaiserslautern (K-Town), FRG in the heart of Europe. Those were the best of times, and sometimes the worst of times. Long story, for another day.

Odysseos in Deutschland. Which calls to mind the classical Hellenic nostalgia, meaning algia (pain, longing) for nostos (home-going). I felt it very strongly over there, thousands of miles from home, despite having relatively pleasant garrison duty. It's real, thoughƒ and it led me to write a novel with the tentative title Jon+Merile. It was a retrospective of my younger years growing up in a New England college town (New Haven/Yale University sprawling across downtown). It is a New Haven novel written in an old Hitler-era barracks in Cold War Germany, to lilting strains of Mozart wafting around me from a boom box at my feet. That novel did not see the light of day until many years later, under the title On Saint Ronan Street. When I published it as an aging, retired fellow over forty years later, I was struck by its melancholy, French-like (Umbrellas of Cherbourg) character and plot arcs. That led me in recent years to do globals on my New Haven novel, resulting in (ta-daahh!) a Paris novel titled A Paris Affaire. Ironically, with the experience of extra years of writing, I gave it a different, surprising (upbeat) ending.

My late-20s journey is celebrated in a set of pages incorporated here from a formerly separate website titled *On Saint Ronan Street*. It's dedicated to those works (still in work at this time).

Poet and Novelist. The long and short of it is that, about forty years elapsed after writing that novel (after some of my many frustrating 'almosts' with the investor-driven commercial crowd in New York City). Years later, when I published both the novel and the poems, I saw that the hero of On Saint Ronan Street is a young poet (Jon Harney) struggling to make minimum wage, mowing lawns around the university campus. The story is about his intoxicating infatuation with a beautiful, lonely young faculty wife (Merile Dougherty) whose cheating husband is Absent Without Emotional Leave, in Australia on a paleo dig, and threatening to divorce her. At the same time, Jon is carrying on a hopeless campaign in New York City (two hours by bus) to get his material published. So it occurred to me in 2017 or so to create this twinned pair of books. That's On Saint Ronan Street (novel) plus Cymbalist Poems, and I even published them together in a third volume (27duet). That age has special significance on many levels (I'll discuss some time soon).

NOTES 1 NAME. My birth name is Jean Thomas Cullen (or Jean-Thomas Cullen). In the Anglophone world it's easier to go by John T. Cullen. Also of special note: my pseudonym for SFFH/suspense since 1996 has been John Argo. As a Web and digital publishing pioneer starting 1996, I was so taken by the Sense of Wonder about the Web (before e-commerce, before crime) that I took the name Argo.

Argo was the Ship of Wonder (Argo, built by the shipwright Argos) sailed by Jason and the Argonauts (literally, Argo-sailors) over 3,000 years ago in the Bronze Age, when the Aegean and Pontic Seas were their version of Outer Space for high adventure. That was already mythology in the age of Homer (8th Century BCE) and Aristotle (4th Century BCE). It was already long since mythology when Ovid (1st Centuries BCE and CE) gathered his collections of ancient stories from the Aegean, Mesopotamia, and elsewhere, featuring Jason in Book VII of his Metamorphoses (lit. 'Changes').

And of course Virgil stood Homer on his head to create the Aeneid full of its own original Virgilian wonders. In Stanley Lombardo's stellar translation, Book VIII lines 26-29 of Virgil's Aeneid render an unforgettable vignette from a moment of observation in the poet's life that endures as if it were happening in our own moment:
Sunlight, or the radiant moon, reflected from water
Trembling in a bronze bowl, will glance and flit
All over a room—and then flash suddenly
Onto the coffered ceiling high above.

Yes, the Classics are alive and well. Amazingly, moderns are still making movies and more lately, TV shows, of many ancient myths today, proving they are immortal. That includes the story of Jason and the Argonauts: (1963 movie, etc).


The following are e-books at Amazon. Print editions can usually be found linked to the e-books. Or search Print ISBN-13 (shown below). Or try ISBN-10 if ISBN-13 doesn't work in your Amazon search.

ISBN-10: 074331929X
ISBN-13: 978-0743319294

ISBN-10: 0743319060
ISBN-13: 978-0743319065

ISBN-10: 0743318544
ISBN-13: 978-0743318549

NOTES 2 SYMBOLIST. Yes, Cymbalist is a play on words. I was enamored of many fine poets including the Symbolists (H.D. et al) while a student at UConn in the 1960s. When I was putting together my second duet (mid-2010s sometime) I needed a title for the poetry collection to accompany my age-27 novel On Saint Ronan Street. A pun on Symbolist Poets was a quick, quirky solution. The two books together appear in a third volume titled 27duet. As I continue to build out this webplex, I'll be writing about all this at my Teenage Author website.

My other duet has been Coronado Mystery, which is a duet comprised of the nonfiction, scholarly analysis Dead Move: Kate Morgan and The Haunting Mystery of Coronado and a subsequent 1892 gaslamp era noir novel (Lethal Journey), closely based on the true crime at the famous Hotel del Coronado near San Diego. I have a separate website dedicated to all that here:

On The Cloning of Novels

Paris Affaire. I had fun cloning this novel (On Saint Ronan Street) to create Paris Affaire, whose ending is far less 'Gallic' than that of On Saint Ronan Street—please read the novels to find out what I mean by all that. For now, link is at Paris Affaire. Note: The title is now Paris Affaire, no longer The Bells of Notre Dame. Same text, different title & cover.

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