Weekend Reading: Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Koe Lee

I thought I wouldn’t like this. I thought it would be pretentious and a collection of fleeting, whimsical thoughts voiced by a self-righteous youth. I thought wrong. Amanda Lee Koe’s Ministry of Moral Panic is an incredible collection of shorts.

I was hesitant because so many times have we seen stories like these turn too gaudy. A bit like Gordon Ramsay trying to cook chilli crab perhaps.

Yet Amanda Lee Koe fills her stories with Merlions, Maria Hertogh, The Unbeatables and Mat Rock and still avoids that nauseating kitsch factor by a distance.

Her voice is original. Her characters raw and real.

Instead her stories reflect the national consciousness of this generation. The one stuck with an eye on the safe traditions of the past and the other yearning of becoming something different. 

Being used to something is such a poor excuse for prolonging anything, but it seems like a national pastime, don’t you think? We let ourselves get into the habit of the grind, we let the grind wear us down.

How long do we have before we end up being stuck with faded, inferior versions of ourselves?

Zurotul was made for love, but she was also born to lose. What surprised her wasn’t that she wasn’t picked; what surprised her was that she still had it in her to want things.

Her stories made me uncomfortable because it made me feel constantly judged by her. The trappings of the Singaporean life. Am I one of her flawed characters?

You wouldn’t need it now, you are young and beautiful – beauty is subjective, but who would dispute that youth is beauty? But one day, it might be all you need, so dig a hole and bury it like a bone, and don’t say no one told you: loneliness is freedom.

I go on reading because she doesn’t have the answers either.


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