Letterati: An Unauthorized Look at Scrabble and the People Who Play It

Overview


Letterati spans the history of competitive Scrabble in North America from the colourful hustlers of the 1960s New York game rooms, to the hard driving quantitative tile pushers who dominate the game today with strategic skills and memorized vocabularies. Yet, there is more to the history of Scrabble than just playing the game. There is a parallel plot line that revolves around many of the top players, who over the years have wanted to see the game develop through the outside sponsorship of tournaments, the ...
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Overview


Letterati spans the history of competitive Scrabble in North America from the colourful hustlers of the 1960s New York game rooms, to the hard driving quantitative tile pushers who dominate the game today with strategic skills and memorized vocabularies. Yet, there is more to the history of Scrabble than just playing the game. There is a parallel plot line that revolves around many of the top players, who over the years have wanted to see the game develop through the outside sponsorship of tournaments, the unfettered publication of strategy books and the encouragement of a professional class of players. Along the way the reader will learn about how and why the Official Scrabble Dictionary was compiled, then expurgated in 1993, and now is sold to the public without such words as "jew" as a verb, blowjob, or fatso, while club and tournament players have their own word list, where some 200 such words are legal. The book also covers the obsession that Scrabble becomes for those who play seriously, traits that make a top player successful, how gender affects game play, and how teen players are able to rise above their limited educations and life experience to best their elders. There's also a look at the Scrabble trademark and how its so-called required protection by its owners has been used as a justification for prohibiting outside sponsorship of tournaments, the publication of strategy books and the growth of a professional class of players. At the same time, the book provides a glimpse of how the players' enthusiasm for the game has been harnessed so that they have de facto ended up working for free on the owner's PR plantation, publicizing tournaments, putting on promotional events, talking up the game, and sporting Scrabble geegaws, all unwittingly helping to sell ever more Scrabble sets.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Who knew the world of competitive Scrabble was so cutthroat, so compelling, so organized? . . . Letterati will surely appeal to those who are ardent fans of the game, but even a casual player will find something flabbergasting in McCarthy's doggedly ethnographic examination."  —The Bloomsbury Review

"McCarthy, who is ranked in the top 10 percent of Scrabble players in the country, pulls back the curtain on other obsessive letterati."  —The St. Petersburg Times

"Exhaustively researched. . . . An interesting history, commentary on strategy, wordplay, rule evolution, and numerous character sketches will appeal to those with an above-average interest in the game."  —Scene Magazine

Scene Magazine
Exhaustively researched. . . . An interesting history [with] commentary on strategy, wordplay, rule evolution, and numerous character sketches.
The St. Petersburg Times
McCarthy, who is ranked in the top 10 percent of Scrabble players in the country, pulls back the curtain on other obsessive letterati.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781550228281
  • Publisher: ECW Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,447,314
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Paul McCarthy is a freelance magazine writer who has appeared in "American Health," "Equinox," "Omni," "Oncology Today," "Psychology Today," "The Scientist," and others. He has been a club and tournament "Scrabble" player for 11 years and is ranked in the top 10 percent of players in North America. He lives in Littleton, Colorado.
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Table of Contents


Thanks     vii
Disclaimer     ix
Introduction     xi
The New York Game Rooms: 1960s Hustlers Refine the Game     1
The Business of Scrabble: Selchow & Righter Launches the Game     21
Getting the Business: The Players Want a Voice     33
The Last Word: Scrabble Gets a Dictionary     47
Dirty Words and SOWPODS Too: Expurgation and the Brits     61
The Measure of a Player: The Rating System     77
Let the Competition Begin: Early Tournaments     87
Who's the Best?: The Nationals Evolve     105
Coming Out of the Parlor: The Club Scene     119
As Good As One's Word: Learning the Lexicon     131
The Seven Tile Obsession: Going to Extremes     139
Ethics: Playing Fast and Loose     151
The Women: The Gender Disparity in Scrabble     165
Beginnings and Endings: Prodigies and Retirees     175
Then and Now: Evolution of the Game     189
Life at the Top: What It Takes To Be Good     205
The Trademark Ball and Chain: Fettering the Organized Game     219
A Chilling Effect: Squelching How-To Books     227
Growing the Game: Squelching Outside Funding     241
Don't Ask What Hasbro Can Do For You...: Working on the PR Plantation     249
Arrested Development: Resentment Among the Letterati     255
The Ping-Pong Precedent: Breaking With Parker Brothers     263
Scrabble and the Law: Academe Weighs In     267
The Future: Options for Growth     275
Afterword     281
Appendix     283
Glossary     287
Bibliography     297
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