Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in

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

  1. Stewart Tame Stewart Tame says:

    The subtitle pretty much says it all Over a period of about three years Stefan Fatsis delved into the world of competitive Scrabble with the added goal of seeing if he could improve his own game to the point of being able to compete in the top tournament divisions Tournament Scrabble is different from the average living room game in many of the same ways that tournament level chess differs from playing against your sister or father over the holidays There are even professional Scrabble players Not many true but they do exist The best players are the ones who can memorize lists of ALL the legal two three four and five letter words sometimes longer They can calculate the odds of drawing any given tile and are well versed in the strategy of which letters are safer to extend temptingly out into the column with the Triple Word Score spaces Fatsis alternates the reports of his own progress with profiles of some of the top players of the game as well as its history My favorite bit of trivia was probably his account of his regular sessions with a Scrabble club in New York City One of the members’ names was familiar to me due to my sharing a college apartment with some diehard fans of the Rocky Horror Picture Show president of the national RHPS fan club Sal PiroThe book was fascinating and informative In the end I can find no better summary than the uote from Will Shortz on the back cover “It’s a pleasure to experience vicariously a level of play that I’ll never achieve “ Recommended

  2. Ulysses Ulysses says:

    I should ualify my rating here by saying that I did not in fact like this book as the literal interpretation of Goodreads' three star rating would indicate I thought it was of a two star book it was OK but I'm giving it a bonus star because it contains a most valuable lesson that I don't know whether I could have learned so uickly and easily had I not read this bookAs for the book itself it's pretty hard to like because the voice of the author which also doubles as the persona of the main character in the ongoing story underlying the research and reporting paints the author as a jerk One the one hand Fatsis seems to have no compunction about boasting about his superior Scrabble skills in comparison to other Scrabble playing hoi polloi; on the other hand when he becomes immersed in the world of seriously competitive Scrabble and finds that his skills and knowledge are woefully beneath the level of the pros he wastes no time in tarring the pros as a bunch of maladjusted wacko nerds This sour grapes treatment reeks of intellectual bullying to me and it makes it pretty hard to care about the author's experiences or sympathize with him whenever he receives a humbling defeat This distaste lingers throughout the book and ultimately detracts from its enjoyability it's hard to like a book whose author and main character is a consummate dill holeHowever as I mentioned above the experience of reading the book is somewhat redeemed by the valuable lesson it contains Before reading this I often wondered to myself Hey I'm half decent at Scrabble Should I maybe take it seriously and devote some of my spare time to trying to reach the next level of expertise? Should I enter tournaments and try to play competitively? Now that I've read this book I know the answers to these uestions conclusively Hell no The author's vivid depiction of the world of competitive Scrabble makes it abundantly clear that one has no hope of becoming a serious Scrabble expert unless one is willing to devote the majority of one's free time or probably the majority of one's time period over many years to etching the complete Scrabble lexicon into one's memory and also learning to think in anagrams to the same extent that we normally think in words The relatively small group of players who form the highest ranks of the competitive world are on a plane that Scrabble hobbyists no matter how good they are cannot hope to attain without devoting themselves entirely to the game Having learned this lesson via this book I found myself feeling like a massive burden had been lifted from me I no longer need to think for even a second about whether I should attempt to fully realize my Scrabble potential And I can thus go back to enjoying the game perhaps even than I did before now that I know that it can never be than a hobby for me And for this valuable knowledge I owe Fatsis and this book my thanks

  3. Tung Tung says:

    Fatsis a columnist for various NY magazines took a year off to investigate the world of competitive Scrabble As someone who makes a living with words and who grew up playing Scrabble Fatsis does than investigate this world; he immerses himself in it The book functions half as nonfiction documentary and half as memoir as Fatsis details both the professional circuit and his rise through its ranks Fatsis does a good job of balancing details of Scrabble’s history both the history of the game and the history of competitive tournaments in depth character portraits of the game’s uirkiest top players and the rapid progression of his own skills For those interested in getting better at Scrabble Fatsis also details the lessons he learned and describes the various techniues used by the world’s best players Ultimately I had a few issues with the book that prevented it from being anything than mediocre First as hard as Fatsis tries to make the tournaments come to life and convey their excitement it isn’t enough Scrabble tournaments simply aren’t exciting unless you are talented enough to grasp and interested in grasping the difficulty of the plays upon which the games are won or loss Describing how playing a five letter word instead of a seven letter word cost someone a game doesn’t jump off the page no matter how good the prose Second what Fatsis recognizes about competitive Scrabble also becomes the undoing of this book Scrabble tournaments are won and lost due to a player’s ability to spit out completely obscure words Not only does this immediately distance 99% of all readers from this insular world but it also makes the tournament summaries even less accessible Fatsis describing someone playing WATERZOOI to win doesn’t resonate with anyone Lastly despite the book’s attempts to compare Scrabble to all other competitive pursuits and thus make the subject matter relatable to readers the obsessive behaviors displayed by the uirky characters upon whom Fatsis focuses his attention only serves to further emphasize how completely unlike other competitive pursuits Scrabble really is An interesting read in the same way The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is interesting – you want to read about crazy people Otherwise this book is in the take it or leave it category

  4. Brooke Evans Brooke Evans says:

    This was a super fun book I like Scrabble anyway but the writing was engaging and fun and showed so many angles of the competitive Scrabble I mostly came away with the idea that I will never ever get that great at Scrabble but that there are a few things I could do to get enough better for what I want The characters are interesting and the author's immersion in the scene allows him to communicate the experience of the competitive Scrabble world in what seems to be a really authentic wayIt would be a fun bucket list item to become a rated Scrabble player but to not embarrass myself I'd want to get a little better first

  5. meg meg says:

    hmm i was fully expecting to love this book but i had to stop a few chapters in there was some interesting views into the world of competitive scrabble and portraits of its motely competitors but i was bugged by the emphasis of points over love of new and interesting words so much of it is about memorization and winning tactics which i guess is what the competition part is all about but it just made me want to go play scrabble for fun instead of reading about all the people who take it so seriously it stops being fun

  6. VeganMedusa VeganMedusa says:

    A fascinating look at the world of competitive Scrabble but I was really put off by the author's sexism Women are only mentioned as novices enthusiasts meaning hobbyists or dismissed by age as blue hairs or middle aged

  7. Jesse Jesse says:

    This book wins What can you possibly learn about life from people who obessively play scrabble as their hobby and sometimes as their default profession? uite a lot about passion about friendships between people about being intensely devoted to something because you love it not because it's popular or because others understand it And the best part about it is you even start to catch a bit of enthusasm for playing scrabble Read it You'll like it

  8. Vonia Vonia says:

    It was a 4 Star for me at the beginning again at the conclusion but in between was really simply TMI It was a play by play literally Maybe it's because I'm into Scrabble but not that into Scrabble but even merely one one hundreth of the intensity expressed in this nonfiction work causes me to not only see the board game in a whole new light but in a negative way The one word review of this book is Intense

  9. Caroline Caroline says:

    Well I guess there is a book about everything even the world of competitive ScrabbleIf I remember correctly Tom and I found this at a library used book sale read the back exchanged a couple of Eh why not?s and added it to our haul A few months after that Stefan Fatsis came out with another book and scheduled a book talk at Politics Prose We decided to attend It was an interesting enough talk but one thing I noticed was that during the A those doing the uestioning continued to steer the conversation back toward Scrabble instead of toward the new book that Fatsis was there to promote Tom read Word Freak soon after and really enjoyed it; it took me a while to get around to it but know I can say I've read it tooIt was better than I was expecting I admit I was a bit skeptical that Fatsis was going to be able to spend 372 pages talking about Scrabble and hold my interest the entire time He succeeded Though the book is wide ranging in its scope within the Scrabble universe it still manages to feel focused which is a feat The book covers everything from the origins and history of the game to the strategy involved at the top levels of play to the colorful cast of characters that inhabit the competitive circuit I should get an alliteration award for that sentence Woven within these many different topics we get a front row seat to watch Fatsis struggle to reach an expert rating in competitive ScrabbleWhat start out as a George Plimpton esue bit of participatory journalism becomes much as Fatsis becomes capital H Hooked on the game I'm always skeptical of authors who are an active part of the narrative they are writing doing things that are oh so conveniently perfect for the story they are trying to tell That being said Fatsis strikes me as genuine both because of how he writes about his frustration and obsession with improving his Scrabble game as well as the fact that he is still uite highly rated and an active participant in the competitive Scrabble scene over a decade after finishing and publicizing the book I may have spent some time poking around websites detailing Scrabble player ratings and tournament resultsFatsis did an excellent job of showing why Scrabble is an atypical board game one that should be grouped with relatively ancient chess or backgammon instead of its pedestrian contemporaries like Monopoly or Life The skill involved in Scrabble is incredible a mixture of word knowledge via memorization which as detailed in the book is insane tens of thousands of words by the top experts experience with how to manage the board as well as having a solid understand of the odds and probability involved in drawing tiles And even impressively he did so in a way that was actually interesting and made we want to play some Scrabble No mean featCompetitive Scrabble attracts a wide array of individuals and learning about them and their eccentricities was one of my favorite things about the book Though many of these experts have their uirks Fatsis for the most part portrays them in such an endearing manner that I want to hang out with them around a Scrabble board Again I may have spent some time looking up some of these folks on the Scrabble website trying to put faces with names and checking in on whether they are still playing ten years later and if so how they are faring Additionally in poking around these websites it appears there have been some rather major changes since Fatsis wrote his book including the abolishment of the National Scrabble Association which ran the competitive circuit I would love an update from Fatsis on the various personalities and state of the game todayI remember from Fatsis' book talk at Politics Prose that he runs a local Scrabble club at a library in Northwest DC Reading this book made me want to rescue my Scrabble set from my parents' house when we go visit and after a bit of practice of course head to the club to play a few games

  10. Amy Amy says:

    Original review written February 9 2004 I found this book a fascinating example of how diverse and uirky people can be I love Scrabble and am a fairly decent living room player Stepping into the world of competitive playing was an eye opener I am a literate well educated articulate person I was totally stumped by so many of the words that players came up with in the stress of competition It was a bit frustrating for me as each time I came across a new word I had to reach for the dictionary to look it up Which meant that my reading was somewhat halted having to make such freuent stops one page I had to stop 24 times after that I refused to keep count which is good because I can no longer remember what all the new vocabulary meantI loved reading the history of the game We have one of the early sets from the 50's and it is a prized possession No matter how I may lust after the fancy ones that spin and turn I won't give up my childhood setThere were things I found distracting when reading the book because I had to read it in short bursts and hops I had to constantly refresh myself what some of the shorthand and symbols meantI am slightly familiar with the world of competitive chess and the regulars of bingo of competitive sports as well This was a glimpse into another type of competitive gaming and made me itch to get my hands on the scrabble tiles againBut ultimately this was so far removed from my scrabble experiences that I had a hard time relating This is an additional comment I made when I read Maggie's review February 10 2009 I am a total scrabble holic finally had to go cold turkey for online scrabble which was fun because you had all the time you needed to mull over the tiles because it was eating my life I read this before the invention of online scrabble where people cheat like the dickens I'm convinced they have to there must be lists of 7 letter words and programs for figuring out combinations etc That's another reason I uit on line scrabble It was too tempting and too easy to potentially cheat and I don't need that black mark on my soul I have uite enough already thank you very much

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Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players [Read] ➵ Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players By Stefan Fatsis – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk Scrabble may be truly called America's game But for every group of living room players there is someone who is at one with the board In Word Freak Stefan Fatsis introduces readers to those few explori Scrabble may be truly called America's game But Heartbreak, Triumph, PDF ✓ for every group of living room players there is someone who is at one with the board In Word Freak Stefan Fatsis introduces Word Freak: PDF or readers to those few exploring the underground world of colorful characters for which the Scrabble game is life playing competitively in tournaments across the country It is also the story of how Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Epub á the Scrabble game was invented by an unemployed architect during the Great Depression and how it has grown into the hugely successful challenging and beloved game it is today Along the way Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and MOBI :Ê Fatsis chronicles his own obsession with the game and his development as a player from novice to expert More than a book about hardcore Scrabble players Word Freak is also an examination of notions of brilliance memory language competition and the mind that celebrates the uncanny creative powers in us allFatsis writes with affectionate zeal about the game and the fraternity of brilliant lonely and otherwise dysfunctional oddballs it attracts The New York TimesWord Freak has an impassioned subtitle and it lives up to every word People.