The website of writer & artist Dan McNeil

THE FACE OF AMERICA (Interzone 196)

David Ira Cleary | 2005
18th February, 2021
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A gigantic aeroplane with a floor of glass flies endlessly back and forth across America. When not playing games of chance within its lounge, the elderly passengers routinely observe a myriad of immense eyes that float upwards from the obscure landscape beneath them.

Driven by an apparent belief in universal determinism, the card-cheating protagonist murders several of her fellow passengers – one with a garrotte, another by breaking both of his arms before ramming his face repeatedly into a step. The violence however is dreamlike and sensual, applied to the page with a marvellously detached and soft-focus brush, as if David Lynch has recreated the entire text and filmed it underwater.

Like a roaming stellar object caught in the gravity well of a sun, the protagonist is finally trapped (objectively, metaphorically or unconsciously – we cannot tell which) by an enormous eye, the size of which is alluded to in spare yet stylish prose:

We are beginning to circle it; the lens is a dome above the dilating pupil and the hazel iris. I can see the plane’s reflection on one side of the lens, the sun’s on the other. Both are small.

All attempts to analyse The Face of America are doomed. Resembling a Tanguy painting, the logic of this surreal and haunting text is refreshingly inscrutable.

©Dan McNeil 2003
[This review first appeared in Whispers of Wickedness]