BOOK REVIEW: 'Word' spells out Scrabble fanaticism

Competitive Scrabble players fancy themselves on par with poker, backgammon, or chess pros. The difference is that those games aren't owned by anyone. Scrabble, on the other hand, is the tightly held property of Hasbro, and the relationship between the game's fanatics and its conservative vendor has all the trappings of classic tragicomedy.

Competitive Scrabble players fancy themselves on par with poker, backgammon, or chess pros. The difference is that those games aren't owned by anyone. Scrabble, on the other hand, is the tightly held property of Hasbro, and the relationship between the game's fanatics and its conservative vendor has all the trappings of classic tragicomedy.

This book is about obsession - primarily that of its author, Wall Street Journal sports reporter Stefan Fatsis. A reporting assignment becomes an odyssey as Fatsis memorizes word lists, follows the tournament circuit around the globe, and delves into the board game's history in a quest to compete with the best. It's not a book written for the business community, but anyone who's ever protected a trademark will likely chortle in pained empathy as the players, a dysfunctional lot, hound Hasbro for more funding, exposure, and respect. What's sad is how painfully obvious it is to Fatsis, and anyone who knows PR, why that's just not in the cards, er, tiles. Title Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players. Author Stefan Fatsis Publisher Penguin, 384 pages

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