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The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip Hardcover – August 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1st edition (August 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375503838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375503832
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,382,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip is that rarity, a fable that appeals equally to literate adults and id-crazed kids. Its author, George Saunders, is a Thomas Pynchon-approved, three-time O. Henry Award-winning surrealist writer; its artist, Lane Smith, is the Caldecott-honored illustrator of The Stinky Cheese Man and film designer of James and the Giant Peach. Nothing could evoke Saunders's simple yet extravagant story better than Smith's strange, painterly depictions of the seaside town of Frip, a place of ornery eccentrics and oddball animals. Smith combines some of the virtues of George Grosz, Dr. Seuss, and the Japanese prints called Ukiyo-e ("pictures of the floating world").

Gappers are baseball-sized, burr-shaped orange creatures with a compulsion to creep up out of the sea and fasten themselves to goats, whom they love. "When a gapper gets near a goat it gives off a continual high-pitched happy shriek of pleasure that makes it impossible for the goat to sleep, and the goats get skinny and stop giving milk," writes Saunders. Since Frip survives by selling goat milk, the children must brush gappers off the herd eight times daily and dump them into the ocean. You simply must see Smith's picture of Capable, the book's plucky heroine, emptying her gapper-sack from a precarious cliff picturesquely menaced by subtly colored waves. You'll be torn between lingering over the gorgeous artwork and flipping the page to see how Capable will ever cope with the gapper invasion of Frip, her obdurately past-obsessed widower papa, and her dumb, mean neighbors (two snooty, boy-obsessed girls and a family of singers who are harder on the ears than a keening gapper attached to the goat of its dreams). This is a slim tale, but unquestionably one quite in keeping with Saunders's prizewinning books. The title story of Pastoralia, for instance, is also a fable involving class struggle and people who get snooty about the difficulties of working with goats.

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip is a grownups' book, a kids' book, an art book, and a cause for countless happy shrieks of pleasure. --Tim Appelo

From Publishers Weekly

Saunders's (Pastoralia) idiosyncratic voice makes an almost perfect accompaniment to children's book illustrator Smith's (The Stinky Cheese Man) heightened characterizations and slightly surreal backdrops in this unconventional fairy tale for grownups. Saunders describes the setting, the town of Frip, as "three leaning shacks by the sea," which Smith represents as oblong two-story towers in brick red, ocean blue and mint green situated on irregular plots of land with sinewy trees against a yellow sky that suggest a Daliesque eerieness. The 1,500 gappers, spiky little creatures with multiple eyes, feed on the goats that graze the shacks' backyards; by habit, they split into three groups to attack all three properties at once. One day, the gappers decide that henceforth they will concentrate all their efforts on the goats at only one house, the one closest to the seaAinhabited by a girl, Capable, and her grieving, widowed father. Soon, the two unafflicted families begin to tell themselves that they are superior to Capable and her father ("Not that we're saying we're better than you, necessarily, it's just that, since gappers are bad, and since you and you alone now have them, it only stands to reason that you are not, perhaps, quite as good as us"). Of course it's only a matter of time until everybody's luck changes. The Saunders-Smith collaboration is inspired. Smith adds witty touches throughout, and Saunders's dialogue features uncannily amusing deadpan repetitions and platitudinous self-exculpations. Saunders is much too hip to bring this fable to an edifying ending, but things do conclude as happily as is possible in the morally challenged, circumscribed world of Frip.

More About the Author

George Saunders's political novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil was published by Riverhead Trade Paperbacks in September 2005. He is also the author of Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, both New York Times Notable Books, and The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a New York Times children's bestseller. In 2000, The New Yorker named him one of the "Best Writers Under 40." He writes regularly for The New Yorker and Harper's, as well as Esquire, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine. He won a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 2004 and his work is included in Best American Short Stories 2005. He teaches at Syracuse University.

Customer Reviews

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Aaron Tell
This book is 'very' easily read in one sitting...good thing, because you will want to read it again (and probably even more).
A. G. Totcky
It is a wonderful, witty book with a great message.
"bookphile"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on January 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This very evening I discovered the joy of reading George Saunders...
"There were approximately fifteen hundred gappers living in the sea near Frip. Each Frip family had about ten goats. Therefore, there would normally be about five hundred gappers per yard, or fifty gappers per goat."
What is a gapper?
Well, it is this baseball-like, Velcro-type crustacean with multitudinous eyes, that crawls out of the ocean at night along with (give or take) 1,499 of its buddies, all intent upon attaching themselves to local goats in a burr-like fashion. Side effects? Serious immediate goat-lassitude followed by actual withering, and depletion of milk supply!
Exactly! Of course!
It's fabulous.
Oh man... it's been a long while since I got so caught up into one of these child/adult books, the last time being Salman Rushdie's excellent "Haroun And The Sea Of Stories."
This one is every bit as good, or better. And every bit as crazy.
Let me put it this way... I stumbled across this book in the store, sat down with it... read the whole thing, laughed... laughed some more... thought of many people I want to give this book to... and ended up purchasing five copies. One will be for my own re-reading.
It is hilarious, and meaningful all at once... as the slipcover says, it's an "adult story for children, a children's story for adults."
The illustrations are superb, and the quality of the book is impeccable... a work of art.
It is a flawless imaginative work, that... while it makes you laugh at every second sentence, makes you realize that resourcefulness in the midst of undeserved adversity can really save the day! That selfishness is ugly... that neighbors ought to be... neighbors.
This little girl named Capable... she is a terrific role model for children....
Read more ›
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Craig A. Svonkin on July 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Saunders' brilliant, hilarious adult allegory is masked as a children's tale but is really more of a profound critique of American social Darwinism and the false idea currently held by many rich and privileged that they are rich and privileged due to their own superiority, hard work, or God's election, and not to pure luck. The book is also a thoughtful, funny response to libertarian myths of radical individuality that currently infect American politics like those Gappers of Frip. Older children might enjoy the book as well. I could imagine teaching this book, with wonderful illustrations by Lane Smith, to intelligent ten year olds, but might also integrate the book into a high school English course.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Tell on September 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The "Very Presistent Gappers of Frip" is a wonderful fable that adults will love and that kids will enjoy as well, but on a different level. (Much as "the simpsons" has many layers.) The illustrations are also great. Lane Smith's artwork evokes the surreal quality of Saudners prose perfectly. The tale is typical of Saunders' short stories in his earlier books, although without any perversity or "unsuitable" language. The story is bizarre and endearing; the characters live in a world so different than our own, yet they seem so familiar anyway. This book is expensive considering its brevity, but is worth it just for the illustrations, let alone a funny story by George Saunders. In short: Buy it! Buy it now! Buy extra copies to give as gifts!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "turboghandi" on November 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of both Saunders and Smith, I felt compelled to pick this one up. The book itself is well-made -- beautifully bound with heavy, tactile paper.
I was expecting something a little more adventurous from Saunders, but still he knows how to tell a fun story in the tradition of Seuss and Dahl. Gappers from the sea are molesting the goats of Frip with their joyous shrieking, while young Capable must support both herself and her widowed father, who insists on eating white food. You get the idea.
Or maybe you don't.
The real stand out here is Smith's illustration. I'm hoping to buy or recreate a couple of these pieces and hang them on the wall.
A good book for the kids' shelf too. This one will make for about an hour of bed-time reading and picture-viewing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By RCM VINE VOICE on March 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
My sister gave me this book recently as a birthday present. Immediately I was struck by the bold, yet somewhat disturbing illustrations (the voodoo doll) that accompanied Saunders slight moral tale.
"The Very Persistent Gapper of Frip" tells the tale of the extremely small town of Frip, three families to be exact, who make their living raising goats and protecting their beloved economy from the gappers - bright orange shrieking creatures who love goats. If left to their own devices, the gappers will completely cover a goat and soon he will stop giving milk, therefore putting a halt to any sort of income for the three families. The children of the three families are responsible for brushing the numerous gappers from their goats at any given time of the day. The less-than-bright gappers settle their sights on the main character, Capable's goats. She has lost her mother and her father refuses to change (or to eat anything that isn't white) and so she is left alone to handle all the gappers of Frip since her neighbors believe her to be cursed. Seemingly alone, Capable must teach herself, her father, and her neighbors the true meaning of community (as well as how to overcome the persistent gappers).
"The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip," is a delightful and quick read even if it has a somewhat apparent purpose and moral. The illustrations by Lane Smith truly elevate this slight tale to an instant classic.
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