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Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and…
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Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of… (edition 2002)

by Stefan Fatsis

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1,461387,541 (3.84)49
Member:amyandroland
Title:Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive ScrabblePlayers
Authors:Stefan Fatsis
Info:Penguin Books (2002), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
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Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis (Author)

  1. 30
    The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Genuises Who Make Up America's Top HighSchool Chess Team by Michael Weinreb (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: Both books are filled with profiles of unusual people who devote time and resources to competitively play something most of us consider a pastime.
  2. 20
    Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy! by Bob Harris (jseger9000)
  3. 00
    Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer (LynnB)
    LynnB: Also written by a journalist who becomes a competitor,this book looks at the world of competitive memorization.
  4. 00
    Searching for Kingly Critter : a deliciously different tale of obsession and nostalgia by Barry Divola (Anonymous user)
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» See also 49 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
I couldn't finish it. You would think that a book about a word game would not need to resort to crude and foul language to describe events and ideas. ( )
  wrightja2000 | Sep 6, 2018 |
My favorite game is Scrabble. But I play it casually compared to the people in this book. The author is a reporter who took an assignment to write about Scrabble tournaments. Enjoying the game himself as a "living room player," he quickly became an insider in the odd subculture of Scrabble fanatics. Hung out with the "parkies" in New York City, went to Scrabble clubs, learned from some of the best how to study word lists, and worked his way up to the level of the pros.

So the book is a mix of descriptive journalism and personal endeavor to master the game, character studies on some of the top players (fairly eccentric people), history of the game itself (invented during the Depression by a guy named Albert Butts- that chapter was really interesting), involvement of the two companies that own rights to the game, how Scrabble tournaments are conducted, difference between acceptable words in American and British English, arguments between players about acceptable words and best methods of study, and so on.

Reading about the tournaments and worldwide competitions was pretty intriguing. It's not the same now, with online versions of the game that let you immediately look things up. During the time period Fatsis describes, word lists were tediously worked out by hand, serious top-level players poring through the dictionaries to compile them. The kind of mental gymnastics people play with anagrams, finding letter combinations and learning strategies to make the best play based on probabilities are beyond me. I never write down my racks throughout a whole game to study missed possibilities later, or play games against myself for practice. But the book didn't spoil it for me either (I already knew I'm not that good): after finishing the read I invited my teen daughter to play a round of Scrabble, and it was just as fun as ever.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Dec 11, 2017 |
Interesting but a little long. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
Yes, I know five stars are too many. It's not an 'amazing' or perfect book. But I do think that many of us who empathize with the characters would enjoy this tremendously, and I also think that people who know someone who obsesses over a game, any game, would benefit from reading this and understanding another aspect of the human condition. Also, years later, I still remember parts of this book every time I play a word game. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
"Virtually everyone suffers from the deeply ingrained habit of considering language as a medium of communication."

-- Dimitri Borgmann, Language on Vacation
"Without effort, he had learned English, French, Portuguese, Latin. I suspect, nevertheless, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes, there was nothing but details, almost contiguous details."

-- Jorge Luis Borges, "Funes, the Memorious"
"Words, words, words. I'm sick of words."

-- Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady
Dedication
For Lampros, Cindy, and Michael
First words
The world of games and the world of words are governed by their own sets of elaborate rules. (Author's Note)
The cops arrive, as they always do, their Aegean blue NYPD cruiser bumping onto the sidewalk and into the northwest corner of Washington Square park.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
Compulsive gamer
proves to himself and us
he's a Natural.
(SomeGuyInVirginia)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142002267, Paperback)

Like a cross between a linguistic spy and a lexicographic Olympic athlete, journalist Stefan Fatsis gave himself a year to penetrate the highest echelons of international Scrabble competition. Word Freak is the account of his journey. It's a wacky grab bag of travelogue, history, party journal, and psychological study of the misfits and goofballs whose lives are measured out in Scrabble tiles.

Fatsis gives us all the facts about Scrabble--from the story of the down-on-his-luck architect who invented the game in the 1930s to the intricacies of individual international competitions and the corporate wars to control the world's favorite word game. He keeps the reader turning the pages as we get involved in the lives of the Scrabble obsessives: men and women who have a point to prove against the world and have chosen Scrabble as their playground and their pulpit. As Fatsis goes on his own quest to attain the coveted 1600 rating, we actually get obsessed with him as he lies awake at night pondering moves and memorizing lists of words. For anybody who is interested in words, Word Freak provides an entertaining and absorbing read. --Dwight Longenecker, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:23 -0400)

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