Love as Artistic Discipline: Diane Frank's YOGA OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

Philip Kobylarz

Diane Frank’s new novel is not a probable thing. Yoga of the Impossible expands narrative form into other selves of memoir, autobiography, vignette, day journal, and philosophical discourse centering on life, its meanings, and the crafting of one’s being. As readers may revisit Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North longing for the illusive concept of home, this something-beyond-a-novel-of-a-text can be read likewise by those wishing to enter an odyssey of artistic self-definition. In its telling of the struggles, development, and tangents followed in the pursuit of inspirational bliss, it serves as a handbook for the creative process. It is a portrait of the artist as intimate woman, though decidedly non-Joycean in its connectedness to traditional narratology, and similar to all great works of portraiture in its theme of the self’s adopting the ephemerality of a burgeoning consciousness.

Our protagonist is Katarina, an East-Coast-born and educated sculptress who cannot find her place in the world or someone with whom to share her dilemma. She travels the country in search of adventure and self-definition. Hers is the American life of the endless road trip: upstate New York to Appalachia to Mississippiana to the Canadian Rockies to Kentucky sandstone country to the minimalism of Iowa countryside to, finally, the intellectual end of the country, the City by the Bay.

In her wanderings, she seeks to define a persona based on her incredible erudite curiosity and the people with whom she comingles, forming a complexly layered adventurer who is never wholly satisfied and must continue her journey until she can locate a serendipitous combination of artistic and romantic union. The task is daunting in her world governed by the muses and with her creative spirit so in tune with life’s fluid and cyclic nature:

Sometimes when I’m looking at photographs, I feel like I’m looking at ghosts—people who have disappeared into other lives. Sometimes, when I look into the mirror, my face is far away, but I remember footsteps between the tiger lilies behind the empty lot at the corner. The music in the mud under the orchids is pulling me to the earth, planting root there. I am the woman under the veil. This is what I am dreaming.

And there are many men. Unlike a clichéd Don Juan, Katarina doesn’t consume and abandon her amorous interests. Instead, she narrates the subtleties of attraction that make the ambiguously termed “relationship” a highly personal and intricate game of mental and emotional tug-of-war. In her accounts of finding herself in others, we experience the give-and-take, the evolutions, and the frustrating pullings-apart and comings-together that always exist in that most profound transformation of becoming someone ready to love truly and to be loved.

This is romance novel. This is a travelogue. This is a coming-of-age tale. Titled after a form of Hinduism that reveals enlightenment via meditation on paradox’s roots in arcanum, Yoga of the Impossible is, at its heart, a treatise on channeling pure, ecstatic feeling and finding the means to harness this energy and transform it into a meaningful existence in a world of meaningful existences.

What Kerouac in his transcendental text referred to as the "Golden Eternity” informs this work, and it is rich with overtones of secular divinity as the artist finds home in the last place in the U.S. where the concept of bohemia is, though increasingly microcosmed, still alive and thriving. This book is hard to classify as any one entity, much like its protagonist. Chapters flow episodically, much like short stories intricately linked; there are journeys within journeys, lending the narrative a quixotic air as the narrator evolves into a teacher, lovers, even an itinerant dance gypsy. It is a portrait of the mind of a would-have-been Manhattan socialite who chooses to expand her self into a Whitmanesque persona who can never be confined to a singular setting.

Finally in contemporary literature, we have an account of a young woman going West. Katarina’s transmogrification, infused with romance, a celebration of world culture, the afterglow of the social revolution of the 60s and 70s, the weirdness of the various forms of being that America offers, hardcore intellectualism, and a heart intent upon merging with others creates a new way of seeing, sensing, and telling. It becomes its own sect of impossible yoga—a history of the importance of limitless nuance in defining the art of the self.

Yoga of the Impossible 
Diane Frank
1st World Publishing 2014
$18.95 paperback, ISBN: 978-1-4218-8683-1
310 pp.