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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

[“Looking Like an Academic”]

by Priscilla Charrat Nelson

20 March 2017:

I am heartbroken to learn about my friend Okla Elliott’s death. Many have spoken more eloquently than me about his work as a poet, a novelist, a literary critic, and a scholar. I will cherish the memories of grabbing bucket-sized iced lattes before going to talks on the Illinois campus, reading for hours in coffee shops together when everyone else left campus for the summer, collaborating on scholarly projects, hitting the gym only to stuff our faces with Thai food right after, and lengthy conversations about philosophy. Dear “robot monkey man,” you are dearly missed.

Photograph of Okla Elliot, by Priscilla Charrat Nelson
Elliott at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Photograph by Priscilla Charrat Nelson

22 March 2017:

Okla was not a shy person and I am still amused when I remember that the first time we met for coffee he bowed and pretended to kiss my hand in the middle of the Illini Union when I went for a handshake. Yet, on the day he asked me to take pictures of him “looking like an academic” (his words), it took every encouragement and goofy joke I had in store to get him to relax. I finally got a smile when I said we had deserved a trip to Espresso Royale for some iced tea and Sartre reading, as he gave his usual approval: “Exactly, exactly.”

—Text and two photographs (one here and another in our Elliott Farewell) are republished from Facebook with author’s permission.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Priscilla Charrat Nelson

is a PhD candidate in the French Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds an MA in English from the University of Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle (France) with a focus on contemporary American literature, and an MA in Language, Literature, and Translation from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a focus on French and Francophone Literature.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury