While I was at CHI, I finished Word Freak, subtitled Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players. It’s a good read, filled with an obligingly weird cast of characters. Having seen it recommened on peterme.com, I bought it for my wife, our reigning in-house champion (I knew I was really getting it for myself). There is something deeply appealing about a bruising, trash-talking pro tour for Scrabble heads. The author, Stefan Fatsis, goes native and eventually becomes an expert player himself as he tells his story. I like the part where he’s talking to the former world champ, Joel Sherman, who’s complaining that Scrabble should be more popular than chess, because it’s more accessible. Millions of people could watch, he whines. “Watch what?” replies Fatsis, “watch you play TREHALA, and then run for their dictionaries?”
Come to think of it, web coverage, with appropriate links to reference sources, might just make that dream come true. I’d watch. By the way, Joel Sherman has the very first review posted for the book on the Amazon page. As long as you’re at it, cruise over to the 2001 World Championship site and see what all the fuss is about (or not, depending on how you look at it). Here’s the winning grid. Ever heard of a VOZHD?