Reading Notes:

Jippi

Eric Van Gelde, aging bohemian, finds himself living alone in a ramshackle river-side bungalow in West End, Brisbane. The year is 1997. His wife has only been gone one week, but already the parrot is beginning to make sense. Not your generic portrayal of a mid-life crisis, Jippi charts Eric's bumbling voyage through encounters with the flirtatious barrister's wife (who wants him to paint 'Lots of dragons!'), the friend contemplating suicide, the teen-aged daughter arriving with attitude and suitcases, the goddess who haunts his dreams, and that bloody cockatiel who just won't shut up about it all! Sex, song, and cuckoldry, Jippi is a modem immorality tale that plumbs the depths of urban decay, parenting, art, aviculture, and gnosticism.

About the Author

Kim Downs grew up in America. He emigrated to Australia in 1980 and has resided in Queensland since 1995. Kim has been writing professionally since the early eighties. His short stories appear in Australian publications including Australian Short Stories, Woorilla, Westerly and Love Cries (HarperCollins), and poetry journals such as imago, Idiom 23, Social Alternatives, small packages, and Micropress Oz.

Questions Raised by the Book

Extract

Brisbane stretches her arms to Moreton Bay, up the Brisbane river valley, and into the foothills of the D'Aguilar Range. For just over 170 years, Brisbane has slept with blackfellas, German missionaries, hungry gold miners, opportunistic land grabbers. She has spawned thieves, whores, Governor-Generals, famous pilots, Wimbledon and Olympic champions.
....
Brisbane is buxom and straining her seams, doing the Rumba. She throws back her head and laughs. She wipes her forehead with the hem of her sarong. She is a wealthy strumpet dancing on the graves of stone-age men .
...
'FWEE FWEEER ... FWEE FWEEER ... FWEEEE FWEEEEEER! ... WHO'S A PRETTY BOY JIPPI ... WHO'S A PRETTY BOY ... JIPPI ... JIPPI ... JIPPI ... HELLO ... HELLO JIPPI ... WHO'S A PRETTY BOY ... FWEE FWEEEER ... NOO NA NEE NUR ... NOO NA NEE NUR ... SORRY ... SORRY ... NOO NA NEE NUR ... NOO NA NEE NUR ... SORRY ... SORRY ... NOO NA NEE NUR NOO NA NEE NUR ... SORRY ... SORRY ... PISS ORF ... FWEE FWEEER ... FWEE FWEEER ... HELLO ... HELLO ... HELLO ... HELLO JIPPI ... HELLO JIPPI THE BIRD ... GET A LIFE ERIC ... WRECK WRECK WRECK!'
Jippi's morning screeching fit only woke me for a moment. I listened, tried to memorise it, then fell back asleep and didn't open my eyes again until it was almost noon.
These morning songs of Jippi's—if you can call them that—usually lasted under two minutes and were never exactly the same. Once delivered, around sunrise, he would lapse into a silence again until I got up and started making that first morning coffee.
In the beginning I had loathed these dawn epistles like a night-shift worker loathes roosters. But gradually, I had learned to look forward to them. As his vocabulary had improved, I had come to the realisation that these early-morning songs were models of construction and form, embellished with poignant cadenzas. A pattern of meanings had begun to emerge from his songs that took on sharper edges and layers of import the more I cracked his cipher.
I say 'cipher' unabashedly because that's what it was. Jippi wasn't just parroting phrases and whistles he'd learned. He used them in their proper context. He knew what they meant to us as surely as a dog knows to sit, heel, or fetch, on a verbal command or the twitch of a hand signal. He even made up strings of words and sounds that had a coherent thread of contextual meaning that was undeniable. In addition, he assigned his own meaning to certain sounds, using them over and over in precisely the same way until even the dumbest human would finally get the picture.
For example, his morning songs always consisted of certain regular favourite phrases and tunes. They were strung together in meaningful arrangement, and sandwiched between a sign-on signal and a definitive full stop ...