Many of our stories follow a certain structure, one that feels as though it fits with causality, or rather what we wish causality meant. But slipping out from underneath such a definition can lead to experiencing a profound freedom of perspective. John Colasacco’s The Information Crusher is a case study in such an experience. The text is presented not as a puzzle with pieces meant to be rearranged “correctly” by the reader, but as the fragments of a shard of four-dimensional reality, intentionally smashed and left to create patterns based on existential whim. No judgment is forced on these patterns. They are allowed to be the product of random chance or the careful machinations of fate; sometimes both. The fragments have connective tissue that is readily apparent, but that tissue is not so binding as to prevent the reader from creating her or his own meaning.
If that point sounds intellectually vague, it is because The Information Crusher is so open to personal interpretation that any attempt to rigidly define it is terribly vulnerable to counterattack by contradiction. Is this book written in prose, poetry, or prose poetry? Are there multiple perspectives in the novel or is it a singular mind smashed into tense and time fragments like the text itself? Is the narrator only one of the characters or the author in some grandly mutated autobiography? Does the narrator address the reader or one of the characters, or does the act of reading the text make require the reader to become a character in Colasacco’s story? The real power of this book lies in, rather effortlessly, making the reader ask all of these questions while retaining both interest and intrigue. The whole of The Information Crusher explores the fluidity of identity, be it with respect to sexuality, gender, childhood, parenthood, siblinghood, friendship, cosmology, or biology, and it consistently remarks on the inadequacy of outdated definitions – “In the middle of the night you were amazed your mother’s clothes would go onto you just as easily as your own”. There is a story in the text, one of jealousy and consequence and need for acceptance, but discovering that story is akin to seeing the pieces of a former vase present in a mosaic.
There is a moment in the mosaic in which one of the primary characters falls off of a bridge that, for reasons made apparent through the novel, has a very direct metaphorical resonance. It is not entirely clear whether or not the fall happens before or after the events that make the fall poignant, but that is part of the point. The character injures his arm and says “But I wouldn’t admit to myself it was broken. I could see and hear that it was broken, but I refused to accept it. It felt like air blowing into a part of my armpit it had never touched before, nothing worse than that”. In the interest of creating subjective meaning from a novel that embodies subjective perspective, I see that quote as a critical theme running through the text. The character, a proxy for us, cannot accept that his body, his reality, his sense of self is broken. He has been presented with the sharpness of circumstance, that existence is not the neatly structured arrangement he took for granted, and he refuses to accept it – until, of course, he later passes out from the pain and injury that he refuses to acknowledge. This whole novel can be seen as a struggling and, at times, very brutal effort to escape from underneath a dominant ideology, as well as the violent, ignorant, and instinctive resistance against such movement.
This book deserves multiple reads from each of its readers, and readers of this book deserve to give themselves multiple angles from which it experience it. Like a puzzle with disfigured pieces or an unfastened mosaic, The Information Crusher paints a new picture with each pass, many of which I doubt even Colasacco intended. It is one of the most thoroughly engaging novels I have ever read, not because of immersion or agreeable tone, but because it has the frankness and trust in the intelligence of its readers required to make demands of them. It challenges you, in what language it chooses to include and leave out, in how it presents itself as a beautifully and intentionally unfinished idea, and in what river bank it deposits you on at the end.
The Information Crusher is available now through Spuyten Duyvil.