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9780618015849

Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players

Fatsis, Stefan

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9780618015849: Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players

Stefan Fatsis, a Wall Street Journal reporter and National Public Radio regular, recounts his remarkable rise through the ranks of elite Scrabble players while exploring the game's strange, potent hold over them -- and him.
Scrabble might truly be called America's game. More than two million sets are sold every year and at least thirty million American homes have one. But the game's most talented competitors inhabit a sphere far removed from the masses of "living room players." Theirs is a surprisingly diverse subculture whose stars include a vitamin-popping standup comic; a former bank teller whose intestinal troubles earn him the nickname "G.I. Joel"; a burly, unemployed African American from Baltimore's inner city; the three-time national champion who plays according to Zen principles; and Fatsis himself, who we see transformed from a curious reporter to a confirmed Scrabble nut.
He begins by haunting the gritty corner of a Greenwich Village park where pickup Scrabble games can be found whenever weather permits. His curiosity soon morphs into compulsion, as he sets about memorizing thousands of obscure words and fills his evenings with solo Scrabble played on his living room floor. Before long he finds himself at tournaments socializing -- and competing -- with Scrabble's elite.
But this book is about more than hardcore Scrabblers, for the game yields insights into realms as disparate as linguistics, psychology, and mathematics. WORD FREAK extends its reach even further, pondering the light Scrabble throws on such notions as brilliance, memory, competition, failure, and hope. It is a geography of obsession that celebrates the uncanny powers locked in all of us.

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Review:

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

From the Back Cover:

"Drama, strategy, controversy, pathos. The rich panorama of emotion. Synchronized swimming? No. Scrabble. Who knew?" --Bob Costas, NBC Sports broadcaster and author of FAIR BALL

"An engrossing, inside look at the strange and rarefied world of competitive Scrabble. It's a pleasure to experience vicariously a level of play that I'll never achieve!" --Will Shortz, New York Times Crossword Editor and Puzzle Master of NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday"

"As they say in the Scrabble world, Fatsis got great tiles when he set out to write this book -- a slew of memorable characters, and a competitive subculture as bizarre as any I've ever seen in sport. I really enjoyed WORD FREAK." --Frank DeFord

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Fatsis, Stefan Author
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2001)
ISBN 10: 0618015841 ISBN 13: 9780618015849
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Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: Contents Author's Note vi 1. The Park 1 2. The Best 10 3. Unrated 20 4. 1005 36 5. Edley 58 6. 1191 75 7. Alfred 89 8. G.I. Joel 109 9. 1291 127 10. The Words 141 11. Matt 154 12. The Owners 165 13. 1461 180 14. Lester 201 15. The Club 214 16. The World 230 17. The Worlds 247 18. 1416 264 19. 1501 285 20. 1574 306 21. 1601 322 22. 1697 340 Epilogue 363 Appendix 367 Sources 368 Acknowledgments 371. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0618015841

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