karen's Reviews > Hula

Hula by Lisa   Shea
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May 14, 2011

really liked it
Read on May 14, 2011



i am choosing to picture the sisters in this book as looking like sally mann's photographs. those eyes... these kids have seen some shit. and it manifests itself in a thousand ways in the details of this book - the foundations are disturbed.



this is a family story, focused upon the dangerous and subtle undertow of the first awareness of sex and death and their commingling in preadolescent girls.



this book resides in the porous space between short stories and novel. there is no individual arc to each story, but neither does it create, at the end of the day, a cohesive novel. this book is a collection of things that happened to two sister characters during their formative years with a father suffering from PTSD, a war-memento metal plate in his head and a penchant for wearing a gorilla mask and hands, a dancer-mother who no longer dances, and is wilting under pressure, and a series of sexually curious and pre-predatory boys metaphorically peering over the fence.

i loved that all of the action took place during two subsequent summers - it is like coming across a jumble of someone else's photographs in a box and there are so many questions about what happened in between the time when the pictures were taken. it's a really excellent way to tell a story in moments.



the only thing preventing this book from a five-star rating was the ending. i liked how shadowy the tone of the rest of the book was - it felt dangerous and subterranean and the end felt flashlit and exposed, if that makes any sense to anyone who hasn't read it.

this isn't the david lynch exploration of the horrors of suburbia - it is more subtle even than that. it takes place in the underpinnings - the secret dirty linens of family history and the mysteries of teen-girl psychology. it isn't all sugar and spice, after all. a lot of it is violence and manipulation and confusion.

overall, a short little book that will stay with you for a while...

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Comments (showing 1-47 of 47) (47 new)

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message 1: by Greg (new)

Greg Excellent use of pictures in the review. I think you created a work of art with them.


karen you just like the one with the fox...


message 3: by Greg (new)

Greg is that fox dead?


karen yes.


message 5: by Greg (new)

Greg I don't like dead foxes.


karen i know - but it fits with the review - with the sex and death and the dead fox and the noooodity.


message 7: by jesse (last edited May 17, 2011 05:56AM) (new)

jesse Instantly (somehow) reminded me of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and the greek movie DOGTOOTH:

Three teenagers are confined to an isolated country estate that could very well be on another planet. The trio spend their days listening to endless homemade tapes that teach them a whole new vocabulary. Any word that comes from beyond their family abode is instantly assigned a new meaning. Hence 'the sea' refers to a large armchair and 'zombies' are little yellow flowers. Having invented a brother whom they claim to have ostracized for his disobedience, the über-controlling parents terrorize their offspring into submission. The father is the only family member who can leave the manicured lawns of their self-inflicted exile, earning their keep by managing a nearby factory, while the only outsider allowed on the premises is his colleague Christina, who is paid to relieve the son of his male urges. Tired of these dutiful acts of carnality, Christina disturbs the domestic balance. >TRAILER<



karen oh, yeah - that is on my netflix...


message 9: by jesse (last edited May 17, 2011 06:13AM) (new)

jesse karen wrote: "oh, yeah - that is on my netflix...

Which? VIRGIN SUICIDES and/or DOGTOOTH?


karen dogtooth. i have seen v.s. already. and read it.


message 11: by jesse (last edited May 17, 2011 12:35PM) (new)

jesse karen wrote: "dogtooth. i have seen v.s. already. and read it."

Please post your opinion/impression of the film here, then, after watching it! (I read the Wiki-summary, since I knew I wouldn't watch it)


karen okay! i will move it up!


Stuart Great review of this book, one of my favourite novels ever.

"takes place in the underpinnings" — that's a great way to describe it.

I've always wondered what's become of Lisa Shea. For a while there were announcements that a short-story collection was going to come out, but I don't think it ever did.


karen there was nothing in my work-computer about it. but i would love to read more by her...


Stuart I think she's another Harper Lee.


karen what, lazy??


message 17: by karen (last edited Jun 07, 2011 07:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

karen joe: okay, i just watched dogtooth and i found it sooooo booooooring. there were parts that were okay, but there was too much forced discomfort that didn't really affect me at all. i call nonsense.


message 18: by jesse (new)

jesse karen wrote: "joe: okay, i just watched dogtooth and i found it sooooo booooooring. there were parts that were okay, but there was too much forced discomfort that didn't really affect me at all. i call nonsense."

Really? I didn't want to watch it anyway. Good to know!


karen i'm not really a fan of quirky and "disturbing" for no purpose. it's just gloss. give me a reason to watch it and i don't mind, but if i am made to feel that there is no real story and the images are only trying to "shock', i feel memories of having to watch student films in college and i start looking around for a bong...


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio karen wrote: "joe: okay, i just watched dogtooth and i found it sooooo booooooring. there were parts that were okay, but there was too much forced discomfort that didn't really affect me at all. i call nonsense."

Boooooooooooo! I loved it. Though it's not something that's stuck with me like a lot of films I've loved. So maybe I'm full of artsy fartsy bluster! as many have long suspected and/or known.


message 21: by jesse (new)

jesse MyFleshSingsOut wrote: "karen wrote: "joe: okay, i just watched dogtooth and i found it sooooo booooooring. there were parts that were okay, but there was too much forced discomfort that didn't really affect me at all. i ..."

Any recommendations for me/karen?


karen haahah figures. my feeling is if you are going to set up this artificial "world", give me a reason for why they are being raised this way, or make me feel that you (as a writer/director) are competent enough so that the explanation doesn't matter. i have no problem with the unspoken if the story is strong enough to interest me so that i stop caring about the "why". boobies are nice and all, but "why???"


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I just remembered what made me like it: taboo shatteringly hot cunnilingus pillow fighting scenes. And blood. Sexy, sexy blood. By which I mean: the crisp cinematography and the structural/thematic connections about the complexly layered psychological substrates of fascism and parental authority...


karen no, and that's the thing - all the "violent" scenes were astonishingly well-done which made me mourn the rest of the movie. and i didn't think the girl-on-girl was that hot, it was all confused and tentative. i've had hotter...


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio karen wrote: "haahah figures. my feeling is if you are going to set up this artificial "world", give me a reason for why they are being raised this way, or make me feel that you (as a writer/director) are compet..."

I love the lack of explicit/any explanation for the imprisonment. C'mon, Art Film 101, karen: read between the lines! Bring your own non-passive engagement to the table! Work for your deep meaning and enjoyment, dammit! Otherwise just go to the megaplex and watch the CGI rippling muscles of tired hero archetypes and/or formulaic comedies about hangovers and/or whatever else the plebes are into these days. Snootsnark!


karen yeah - i know - i am a film moron. but again - i just didn't feel there was any compelling reason for me to keep watching. it's like with harmony korine -ooooh shocking!! really?? or are you just filming dumbass shit for no good reason. i say zzzzzzzzz


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Joe wrote: "Any recommendations for me/karen?"

I actually don't watch art films nearly as much as I once did. Mainly because my attention span is usually shot. I re-watch big time favorites (Charlie Kaufman, David Lynch, Kubrick, et al) a lot. I'm looking forward to the heavy handed pomposity-fest of Tree of Life because the trailer made me weepy when I saw it months ago on the big screen.

I just saw an artfully done documentary with a really important and emotionally charged message/narrative about the horrors of North Korea, driven mainly by the testimonies of escapees. It's called Kimjongilia (named after a type of flower that the dictator has named after himself).

I honestly can't think of anything else in the realm of high art that I've seen recently. Everything else I can think of at the moment that I'd recommend is fairly widely known arty fare (Godard, Bergman, Herzog, Kurosawa, and so on).


message 28: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jun 08, 2011 07:26AM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio karen wrote: "yeah - i know - i am a film moron. but again - i just didn't feel there was any compelling reason for me to keep watching. it's like with harmony korine -ooooh shocking!! really?? or are you just f..."

There was something more coherent going on there than Korine's weird for weird's sake bullshit, so sayeth me.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio karen wrote: "it was all confused and tentative"

Yes, yes it was. HOTTT. (I'm only slightly serious about those scenes being hot. I probably got like 1/38th of a boner and probably felt weird about it.)


karen ha! math!

i have to go to work now or i would stay here all day and have you berate me for my terrible taste in cinema.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Psssht! Terrible taste = nonsense. You liked Synecdoche, New York and A Serious Man. You win forever in my half-serious-snob book.


karen that's because i am soooo saaaad


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Yes and no, but your deep immovable sadness is better expressed in your undying allegiance to The Care Bears Movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGn_HH...


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio And I'm so fucked up that watching that trailer just made me legitimately sad.


karen awww i cant see it...

i hate work.


Lauren I adore the pictures you have chosen to represent the girls.


karen i love love love sally mann


message 39: by Jessica-Robyn (new)

Jessica-Robyn Great review, definitely not my kind of story but it sounds entrancing. Also, that photographer is amazing, I'll have to go a check out more. :)


message 40: by Missy (new) - added it

Missy LaRae joє wrote: "THE WOMAN [trailer]"

UGH! That movie totally sucked. It was a waste of valuable time IMO.
VERY overrated.

Thank you for the review, definitely a book that will go on my to-read shelf.


message 41: by Y. (new)

Y. C. I remember seeing a few of the pictures you have up there in a article in the Globe and Mail. The journalist was talking about how she shadowed a bunch of young girls in really low income neighbourhoods and how they reach mental sexual maturity early.

Anyway, great review.


karen really?? cuz sally mann mostly just takes pictures of her own kids, and i'm pretty sure they are doing just fine, financially. oh, unless they were just being used as examples to illustrate her story. but yeesh.


Karly *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)* Those pictures hurt my soul..... so broken, shattered and lost looking!


message 44: by Jenna (new) - added it

Jenna Fascinating stuff...


Michelle i'd forgotten about this. i liked it a lot, too.


Melissa Great review!


karen thanks!


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