M A R C
A N T H O N Y
R I C H A R D S O N
WHATEVER IS IN
THE BELLY OF THE BEAST
(Dalkey Archive Press)
In The Serpent Will Eat Whatever is in the Belly of the Beast, seven dissidents, victims of police violence, orchestrate a strange and insidious agenda, as pangs of conscience compel one of them to see beyond the self. The book is a single-sentence, novelistic poem, a mystical allegory, and a theatrical caché of character studies told in the second person by the collective conscience via the deceased, bleeding into each other and interspersed by the voices and the thoughts of each actor: you.
M E S S I A H S
(University of Alabama Press/FC2)
A fiercely ecstatic tale of betrayal and self-sacrifice
Messiahs centers on two nameless lovers, a woman of east Asian descent and a former state prisoner, a black man who volunteered incarceration on behalf of his falsely convicted nephew, yet was “exonerated” after more than two years on death row. In this dystopian America, one can assume a relative’s capital sentence as an act of holy reform—“the proxy initiative,” patterned after the Passion.
The lovers begin their affair by exchanging letters, and after his release, they withdraw to a remote cabin during a torrential winter, haunted by their respective past tragedies. Savagely ostracized by her family for years, the woman is asked by her mother to take the proxy initiative for her brother—creating a conflict she cannot bear to share with her lover. Comprised of ten poetic paragraphs, Messiahs’ rigorous style and sustained intensity equals agony and ecstasy.
Messiahs is a fever dream of storytelling. It explores racism and interracial conflict, the deadly prison industrial complex, climate emergency, social death, and more in prose that unfurls like waves of sound. Bleak, though not without hope, challenging, though with numerous rewards along the way, innovative from start to finish, Messiahs is a marvel.
National Book Award Winner
Praise & Reviews
"Messiahs seems to take place in our dreams...It is a painfully told tale, fearless in its storytelling, in that it marries austerity with a sensuousness depicting lust, aloneness, and betrayal. It is also the sexiest book of 2021...The radical nature of the book is its shifting narrative, which meanders through minds, prisons, letters, and storms, fiercely navigating a society that is unnervingly similar to our own. It is as quiet and dramatic as silent cinema...It is like a wild plunge down an undammed river: sometimes there are peaceful, calm eddies, but rarely; the fever dream barely releases its grip through the rapids until you close the last page, and even then you dream of it for days."
American Book Review
Marc Anthony Richardson’s novel has a nightmare impact, a gathering heartbreak . . . Messiahs often upsets expectation, using its imaginative premise as more than a platform for critiquing our broken justice system . . . typical of the entire unfolding tapestry, a marvel of close stitching, with glimmers you feel in your spine.
The Brooklyn Rail
In my creative writing workshops, students are encouraged to transcend their reading and writing preferences to be apprenticed by avant-garde works of literature and film—aesthetic achievements centered around objective life, subjective reality, and ecstatic confession. I challenge students’ tendency towards self-censorship in a safe and supportive environment; weekly, we read aloud and write to develop our observational and listening skills in determining the effects of the spoken word. Most of the books or films that affect us deeply are the ones that might have wearied us or disturbed us. But in time, upon further reflection, we find them rather informative—or even illuminating!
Marc Anthony Richardson
Marc Anthony Richardson is the author of Messiahs and Year of the Rat, winner of an American Book Award and a Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize. His forthcoming book, The Serpent Will Eat Whatever is in the Belly of the Beast, won a Creative Capital Award, a Sachs Program Grant, and a fellowship from Brown University's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. He also received a PEN America grant, a Hurston/Wright Foundation fellowship, and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, Art Omi, and Rhodes University in South Africa. He teaches creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania.