• In this issue of SHJ (Spring 2012), we are pleased to feature
“El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles,”
one of the seven short stories in Elliott’s debut collection of fiction.
• Also in this issue:
a full-length review by Robert Petersen
• For a discussion of Elliott’s background, development as a writer, and themes and
insights within his writing, we link you to:
The Idea and the Form:
An Interview with Okla Elliott
by Daniel Elkin, in The Adirondack Review
Human confusion and a desperate need to love and be loved are the secret sharers
of the lives pictured in the spare, clear-eyed language of From the Crooked
Okla Elliott’s forceful and unpredictable stories speak compellingly of love
thwarted, connections not pursued, or severed quickly before they can deepen. The
surface of life, its outward appearance, is often a façade, a place of betrayal,
while the depths remain unfathomable.
The author’s unflinching honesty and his insight into human desires, the passions
that hold humans hostage, life tumbling from one experience to another, are darkly
luminous. Bleakly beautiful. A feast of irony and in-your-face attitude punctuated
with strokes of subtle humor.
—Duff Brenna, SHJ’s Founding/Fiction Editor
The stories in Okla Elliott’s From the Crooked Timber are gritty
and hard-edged in all the right ways. These are stories about people who are put-upon,
either by their own missteps or circumstances beyond their control—stories
about what it takes to keep placing one foot in front of the other. The tender longing
on the underside of want is all through these pages. Elliott’s prose is lean
and stark but somehow suffused with an evocation of how life, given a little more
this or that, could very well be.
—Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever, finalist for the 2006
What so galvanizes me about Okla Elliott’s prickly fiction is his generous
sympathy for and his cold-eyed honesty about the underclass, those at the margins
for whom the American Dream is as much an elaborate hoax as it is a cruel joke.
His are people sand-bagged by their hope, not to mention by their thirst for booze
and hunger for bad love. Make room by the campfire, William Gay and Dale Ray Phillips
and Chris Offutt and Robert Olmstead. Mr. Elliott has stories to burn and homey
truths to brood about.
—Lee K. Abbott, author of seven collections of short stories, including
All Things, All at Once (W. W. Norton, 2006)