Saturday, June 6, 2020

Book: Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe

Koe, Amanda Lee. 2013. Ministry of Moral Panic. Singapore: Epigram Books.

It seems like a different lifetime, but only six months ago I spent 10 days in Singapore, giving two seminars, and presenting and participating in a panel at the Asian and Australasian Society of Labor Economists meetings and, of course, shopping for books.

Amanda Koe Lee is apparently a star of Singaporean literature - "a distinctive literary voice for Singapore's contemporary condition" according to one of the blurbs on the back of the book. And the cover is bright pink, and the title is excellent and short stories are often a fine way to sample a new author. So I bought it and got around to reading it last month.

I found the stories a bit uneven. I quite enjoyed "The King of Caldecott Hill" about an aging television star and his groupie. I also liked "Alice, You Must Be the Fulcrum of Your Own Universe" about a young women and her vaguely mysterious older woman friend as well as "Every Park on this Island" about a female undergraduate who spends a summer dating a visiting American student. On the other hand, "Siren" seemed forced. Overall, the stories have a bit of a "writer's workshop" flavor to them, which has its costs as well as its benefits.

Did I gain some distinctly Singaporean insights (as opposed to generic insights in Singaporean settings)? The collection has some of both. I did learn some Singaporean social history too.

Recommended as something a bit different.

Amazon book page
Barnes and Noble book page
Bricks and mortar store (the one on Orchard Road) where I purchased the book. The store is part of an international chain; I have been to the one in Sydney as well.

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