Regarding the story "The Iraqi"

Hi Jesse,

I'm writing to inform you that we will not be publishing your submission The Iraqi. That said, I thought it was well written; however, I wanted to ask you some questions about it.

Why write this story?

My general feeling after reading this story was that there was a confusion of stakes and controversial or edgy subject matter. At first i was intrigued by the Iraqi's violent behavior, but when it turned into what seemed to me as an almost predictably trite reflection of xenophobic stereotypes you lost me. If this had been accomplished by showing his actions as a reaction to the stereotyping of his peers it would have carried a much different and I think weightier meaning. Instead based on the narrators tone and the final resolution of the story (the redemptive line about the Iraqi being a good worker) we are invited to assume that the Iraqi's American coworkers have been accepting of this man despite his eccentricities, and legal and social transgressions.

Did this story come from life? If not why tell it? If so why tell it this way?

You clearly have a firm grasp on structure and your voice is well developed. That said in this story it was my reading that you engaged a somewhat controversial subject matter with out illuminating any new complexity.  Please feel free to submit with us again, and I apologize if this email sounds preachy or like an undergrad writing workshop. Know that the reason I took the time to write it was because I enjoyed reading you work but did not find this piece suitable for our publication.


Ben W****n, Editor


Hi Ben,

Why a man writes a story is often mysterious, and best left that way. This story came from life. I worked alongside the Iraqi for three months at a cannery in the Alaskan north. I tried to write it so that a reader would have this experience. Perhaps it is less a story then, and more an example.

Xenophobia and stereotypes are of no concern to me. Anytime a writer gets caught up in the consideration or application of extra-literary ideas and theorizing, his writing goes to shit and is forever marked by the politics of his time. A writer should write for all-time, not the fashionable -ism of his day. This means that he must constantly bracket his judgments, his political leanings, the cultural cliches that would tempt him. The Greeks had a word for this rigorous examination of life, the "epoche", and for both them and me, it is the only honest way of looking at the world and making art of it.

Perhaps a writer with university training would have "corrected" these failings in the story. But then it would no longer be about the Iraqi I knew. If the Iraqi does embody some stereotype who am I to change him? That is not the writer's duty. Stereotypes are often valid cultural shorthand, containing valuable truths however uncomfortable.

Thank you for the response as well as the compliments regarding voice and style. I have more stories, and will see about submitting a less controversial one in the future.

Best Regards,



  1. Just came back from several hours in a university library. The wind was still. Get back home and read this exchange and the hair has blown back forcefully. Not quite as forcefully as Ruta 3 (could you please post exchanges with literary journals that will blow my hair back that forcefully in the future?), but pretty damn forcefully.
    Saint Maximin

  2. This goes back to the Greeks and older people in a few ways. One is how you tell it. Do you turn it into something else, like poetry? What the hell is poetry and what is the transformation? Why did that Greek statist want to banish the poets? Think of how women on Facebook selectively drop phrases and photos to mask the aching reality of their being. People don't know what to do with anything raw. Women will thank you 'for your honesty' What the fuck does that mean? Are there really others wired to be anything other than honest? (Read: woman). The man can't believe you write and don't menstruate. He can't distinguish between the 'perpetuation of stereotypes' and a guy writing down what happened (like in a police report) because he's a far, far lost man. Lost in what sense? The man hasn't spent time outside alone in the wilderness. Nature rights everything. everything. He never ran out of water. He never had the wind drive him mad. Jesus, the man knows nothing of the force of wind. Would you trust a man who knows nothing about the force of wind?


Copyright © Moraline Free