The following is an excerpt from The New York Times.

The dress is called a cheongsam, and the woman wearing it is Catherine Lim, 67, arguably the most vivid personality in strait-laced Singapore and, when she is not writing witty romantic novels or telling ghost stories, one of the government’s most acute critics.

In a light, self-mocking, first-person novel called “Meet Me on the Queen Elizabeth 2!” she describes what she calls the strategic power of the dress, bright and playful to the eye but not as benign as it seems.

“No other costume has quite managed this unique come hither/get lost blend,” she wrote in the 1993 book, which recounts her flirtations on a cruise ship with men who, in their masculine determination, look faintly silly.

The subject of her humor, she said, was not only the shipboard story, but also the government of Singapore.

Sometimes called a nanny state for its heavy-handed top-down control, Singapore might also be called a macho state, in which government warriors of social engineering and economic development command the citizenry. In Ms. Lim’s political analysis, these efficient, no-nonsense leaders are respected but not loved by their people, whose allegiance is to the good life the leaders provide, rather than to the leaders themselves.

Visit The New York Times for the full story.

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