Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 5
Spring 2012

From the Crooked Timber: a novella & stories
[Excerpt + Reviews]

by Okla Elliott

• 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 (Spring 2012)

Selected Reviews

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 Timber.

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 Pulitzer Prize

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)

“...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