MINISTRY OF MORAL PANIC is an innocent-looking book; packed within its pages are seemingly explosive weapons filled to the brim with gun powder. Do we say phrases like ‘filled to the brim with gun powder’? Is that sentence correctly constructed? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the debut collection of Amanda Lee Koe — a true wordsmith, an amazing author — has packed Ministry of Moral Panic with 14 stories that will splice parts of your soul apart, slam question marks all over your arms, and bring you to your knees in hurt, agony and mind-numbing anguish. No, this book isn’t all about sorrow.
What it is about is precisely why I just wrote the very painful and negatively-connoted sentence – it is about frenzied panic and confusion of what are the right little morals to cradle close to your chest. What is right and what is wrong? Why can’t I empty my heart onto the barren soil and roll myself into a ditch and call my sins refuted? Why can’t I turn back time into a ‘stage 2’ of our relationship, to prevent you from being alone battling Stage 3 terminal illness?
Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe is what I would spectate, after reading it cover to cover, to be about stories chock-full of humanity and mistakes. Both are inseparable concepts that are bound together as tightly as the sweaty hand clasp of two lovers, because I do believe that it is hard to be human without making numerous mistakes in our lifetimes.
However, anybody can write a book about humanity and anybody can leave it on their shelf, untouched. The reason why I will continue picking up Ministry of Moral Panic is because humanity is presented so unpretentiously in Amanda’s writing, so stripped bear of trimmings – sometimes often showing us the process of how us humans carefully glue on precious feathery facades — that humanity’s bareness is almost perversely displayed. The real and raw bits of human life; left to dry under the harsh sun of a finitely unpredictable world promising not success but more punishment. Perhaps this punishment is deserved; but in most cases the protagonists dangled in front of obstacles in Ministry of Moral Panic are brought plaintive peace — sometimes enlightenment, or an uplifting of our weary souls — and readers are faced with an ending they want to continuously reflect on.
The best part about Ministry of Moral Panic is how provocative and somewhat predictable it is. But books that are predictive are cliched, with a narrative arc we’ve read too often, and are deeply flawed and bad — No, no, hear me out. It is at first predictive — we already foresee the harsh treatment of a transsexual person, for example — with circumstances and wonderfully layered context of a setting sun and a pearly, foamy sea or a balanced relationship, placed around the centrepiece of a story, Amanda Lee Koe’s meticulously-placed foundation of a house (the story) with the most interesting walls one has ever seen.
Ministry of Moral Panic was a book that left me breathless and in a state of panic – I felt like I was constantly chasing after an ending to each story that I could not afford to think of:
Looking back at my experience with reading this beautiful book, I realized that instead of hoping for an ending where lottery tickets are won, the girl gets the other girl, etc, etc, old lovers fall for each other again — I just hoped for the character to attain peace.
Peace for themselves. For the internal conflicts that crash like harsh waves to stop washing over the same, sore spot of a rock. To finally roll the pain of aches that can’t be felt nor easily forgotten away from their heart.
10/10 would recommend if you need to reflect upon many things, such as yourself, and see reflections of yourself.