Saddam Hussein spent the final weeks before the war writing a novel predicting that he would lead an underground resistance movement to victory over the Americans, rather than planning the defence of his regime.—Jack Fairweather, Daily Telegraph, December 17, 2003

June 12, 2003
My dear Professor Morgan,

Many thanks for your advice on my extraordinary novel I Remember Mullah. Your suggestion to join your writer’s group intrigues me. Do you really think I’m good enough?

July 20, 2003
Dear Dr. Morgan,

In Iraq, as you may know, we prize our teachers, and so I must apologize for my behavior during my first session of the writer’s workshop. I was a little out of my element. But modesty is difficult when you’re the direct descendant of Mohammad. Still, I’ll try to do better. For instance, in the future I will refrain from characterizing the stories of others as “boring embodiments of American hedonism.” And yes, perhaps I went too far in threatening to “deconstruct” the digits of Mr. Simon’s left hand if he insisted on using the word “twaddle” in regard to my work, though in my view this is a tad too “PC.” In the meantime, I await your insights regarding my latest manuscript, Tender Is the Tyrant. Yes, it’s printed in blood—but not mine.

August 8, 2003
To the Members of Dr. Morgan’s Fiction Workshop,

I realize my security demands are great, but if I am to continue in the workshop, the metal detector, the disinfectant solution, and the use of cattle prods must continue. And yes, James, the Kalashnikov is a necessary tool of the writer’s trade. I can, perhaps, persuade the guards to be a little less sudden in performing body-cavity searches. You see? The Great Uncle is not without compassion. But my security needs are greater than the needs of a few petty American demons, if you’ll pardon the expression. Melanie, you’ll just have to give up your job at the video store, a job that does little more than feed your swinish capitalist appetite for fantasy (but remember to reserve Day of the Jackal for me before you quit).

September 16, 2003
Dear Morgan,

What’s the big deal? Nobody died. There are limits to what critical theory can do, limits that can be cut through with a well-honed saber. Mr. Johnson will think twice before he carelessly criticizes someone’s prose style (and, for future reference, all criticism is careless). It’s true what they say: cruelty is the tyrant’s art; cruelty and a mastery of the space-break.

October 22, 2003
Dear Dr. Morgan,

Again, apologies, etc. It’s true that I don’t know my own strength (what god does?), but when I wrapped my imperial hands around the plump neck of Mr. Ambrose it was only to illustrate my theory that his story is the work of a depraved American dog who doesn’t deserve to live. People complain about a lack of passion in workshop fiction, but when they see passion, they whine and blubber. Enough!

November 21, 2003
Dear Fellow Classmates,

I apologize for the disturbing necessity of last night’s coup, but as I explained, Allah decreed that Dr. Morgan removed (from the class, from life, etc.). Billy, Susan, Foster, and Annabelle, as far as the pistol-whipping is concerned, all I can say is, “My bad.” From now on things will go more smoothly if we conduct the workshop a little differently.

1. Sally, no more stories about your dead grandmother. I’m as sorry as the next fellow that she’s gone, sorrier still that she had to be drawn and quartered by my Republican Guard, but get over it.

2. Peter, no one’s interested in reading about you and your frat brothers “scamming chicks.” They are much more interested in reading about a darkly handsome dictator and the adoring palace maidens who find his moustache the most powerful of aphrodesiacs.

3. Ernesto, stop already with the fantasy.

December 13, 2003
Dear Peter,

Do you like my spider hole? I think it is quite fine. The ideal space for us to really get some work done. Sometimes one just needs some time away from the daily grind, from the ringing phones and all the moving around our busy world demands. When Yaddo rejected my application, and Bread Loaf didn’t even answer my letter (!), I knew this would be the perfect place to whip my short story collection in shape, and that you, now that you have no limbs, would be my ideal audience. They say one needs to have a perfect reader in mind, and you have become mine. I read and you listen. Perfection! Your Great Uncle wants to thank you for your kind attention last night. Such a reverential silence! Of course, the gag helped. And did I detect a damp blindfold? Could it be true? Were you actually moved to tears by the scribblings of this humble peasant boy? All praise to Allah. You will be in my acknowledgments, after Dale Peck, who has been an inspiration from the start.