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

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ECW Press, 2008 - Games - 303 pages
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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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CHAPTER 1The New York Game Rooms
CHAPTER 2The Business of Scrabble
CHAPTER 3Getting the Business
CHAPTER 4The Last Word
CHAPTER 5Dirty Words and SOWPODS Too
CHAPTER 14Beginnings and Endings
CHAPTER 15Then and Now
CHAPTER 16Life at the Top
CHAPTER 17The Trademark Ball and Chain
CHAPTER 18A Chilling Effect
CHAPTER 19Growing the Game
CHAPTER 20Dont Ask What Hasbro Can Do For You
CHAPTER 21Arrested Development

CHAPTER 6The Measure of a Player
CHAPTER 7Let the Competition Begin
CHAPTER 8Whos the Best?
CHAPTER 9Coming Out of the Parlor
CHAPTER 10As Good As Ones Word
CHAPTER 11The Seven Tile Obsession
CHAPTER 12Ethics
CHAPTER 13The Women
CHAPTER 22The PingPong Precedent
CHAPTER 23Scrabble and the Law
CHAPTER 24The Future
APPENDIXThe Landsberg Case

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About the author (2008)

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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