A literary figure on Monday vented his rage against a New Taipei City Cultural Affairs Department initiative aimed at promoting classic novels, deeming it an insult to the arts.
Author Lee Ming-chun (李明駿), better known by his pen name, Yang Chao (楊照), became irate when the department asked him to help select novels to be featured in a series of short videos, he said.
To be titled How to Read a Classic Novel in Five Minutes, the videos are to be produced by AmoGood, an Internet celebrity known for humorous videos that summarize hit movies in minutes.
After being approached by the department, Lee was too angry to provide a reply, he said, adding that he became angrier at the department’s persistence.
Silence is the most polite reply he could muster for such an insulting request, he said.
“The request shows that they know absolutely nothing about me,” Yang said, questioning the decision to seek his participation.
Yang said on Facebook that while it is appropriate for Internet celebrities to have some fun with hit movies of little substance, it is insulting to subject classic novels to the same treatment.
It is implausible that a respectable cultural department official would display such an utter lack of respect for classics by launching such a kitsch scheme using taxpayers’ money, Yang said.
He also lamented the attitude of Taiwanese.
“How many classic novels have they read, and which deserve to be spoiled like this?” Yang asked.
Pandering to what he called young people’s penchant for entertainment would accelerate the decline of arts and culture in Taiwan, Lee said, adding that putting AmoGood in the spotlight would lead the nation toward producing more Internet personalities “of that caliber,” rather than cultivating great filmmakers whose works rank among the classics.
“A good classic novel can take up to 50 hours to read; that is what I am about,” Lee said. “You simply cannot understand the meaning of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace by reading a two-page summary.”
“What you get from life depends on what you put into it,” he said.
Department Deputy Commissioner Yu Min (于玟) said that the incident took place a while ago and an apology has been sent to Lee.
She said that the videos were to have been accompanied by a series of seminars. However, in light of the criticism, the videos are to be replaced by a series of illustrated books.
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