The problem with communist art is that it is judged not by whether it opens a new perspective.
Rather, communist art is judged by how closely it sticks to a pre-established party line. I'll give an example. I read a lengthy poem by Susan Howe called The Defenestration of Prague, in a book called The Europe of Trusts. Was that the name? It's been almost 20 years. The book was extremely complex on the surface, but underneath was a very simple repetitive refrain. The idea was that Jonathan Swift had a common-law wife or maid whose life is all but forgotten while Swift is a major figure of study. The maid's name began with an E. Like the silent E at the end of Howe's name, how now, Brown Cow, she had been forgotten. But was she a major artist? how many people are capable of integrating fascinating forms with piercing conceptualization? Less than 1% of the population, I'm sure. Susan Howe's work was a very long turgid plea for the silent E's inclusion. Her own inclusion, ultimately. I thought it was a boring Maoist concept. To take the dregs at the margins and push them into Beijing.
The kind of art I'm interested in is art that establishes new criteria in the process of being written, and which doesn't seek to provide a political example through adherence. Instead of seeking to dominate the center it takes up a marginal position and defends the margins as worthy of inhabitation.
"News that stays news," was Pound's dictum. Good art must become a classic while remaining new. But Pound was a jerk. It's very difficult to get past his lack of humanity in backing Mussolini. His own centrist ambitions were simply evil at its most extreme, even though he was himself a striking poet at least in terms of readability.
But ultimately I read him only because I have to. What fascinates me are the oddball humorists at the corners of the empire who have no apparent interest in canonization.
Charles Willeford's book The Burnt Orange Heresy, is one of the few novels that I think manages to achieve this pddball status in American letters. It is itself an aesthetic interrogation of corruption of many different kinds in the art world as various critics and artists attempt to attain centrifugal canonical force, but it hints at a very deep and timeless perspective that brings aesthetics and ethics together in a new but perpetual convulsion of utter alienating oddness. And the novel takes place in the swamps of Florida and is about how the center can be everywhere now that everything is peripheral. Nothing else by Willeford comes close to this masterwork, but this theme dominates even in his weirdest pieces such as Sideswipe, about the aesthetics of painting car stripes on the sides of convertibles, it is again about the philosophy of art. I've never read anything else in the mystery genre that comes close to Willeford, but he remains an odd taste, a novelist's novelist, a philosophical mystery writer's mystery writer. Willem Van der Wetering and some others along those lines still read him. Coming in at a distant second is Soupault's Last Nights of Paris, which is mysterious, and has serial killers and prostitutes going about their marginal lives at the center of Paris, far from the canonical world of art. And yet in some way they are central to the survival of Paris, to its ongoing status as the capital of the art world. Exactly how is never fully stated.
Willeford's book is almost entirely forgotten. Soupault is almost entirely forgotten. But I can't forget them.