Leaving Las Vegas with not a whole lot of writing done, but with fresh insights (can there be stale insights?), four books read, and a new pair of shoes—pink satin Ralph Lauren sandals bought on sale at Macy’s in the Fashion Show Mall. One insight—Scrabble fulfills a social as well as an intellectual function. Duh. I felt lonely in the hotel with Marty playing and my friends far away. I could have gone to the Riviera to chat, but that was across town and, besides, I would have had to explain why I’m in Vegas and not playing Scrabble.
The social function of Scrabble was made clear yet again in the Facebook comments during and following the Nationals. Women wrote about how great it was seeing old friends and making new ones; men mainly kvetched about how poorly they were doing or bragged about how well the tournament was going for them. Very often they bragged one day then kvetched the other. Of course, women kvetch, but on FB at least they do it in a genteel and pleasing manner. And men rarely post things like “So many new friends! I “heart” Scrabble.”
Another insight: not playing in the Nationals yet following the Nationals is kind of a Rorschach test that reinforces the fact that there are people you (or at least I) dislike. There were people I was rooting for, especially in the division I would have been playing in—I’m glad they both finished in the top six. (The fact that I wasn’t playing did make it easier to be generous of spirit.) There were people I was rooting against. These included anyone under thirty; people who had previously whomped me (why does spell-checker not accept “whomped”? Fuck you, spell-checker) by getting all of the good tiles and then walked away smugly and silently; individuals who say things like “Whew. Almost lost that one” at the end of a game; and players who berate their bad luck during a game by muttering “unbelievable.” (I’ve been guilty of the last one, so I guess I must not like myself.)
As for the books I read….One was a novel called The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine that has to do with dogs, romance, and urban living. (Though not about romance among dogs.) It’s very readable in terms of plot, but the point of view is all over the place. I reread Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which wasn’t quite as dazzling the second time around. Also—a very depressing but well written book of short stories with the great title The Beautiful Wishes of Ugly Men by Adam Prince. And, finally, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, by an author whose first name is Bich but is pronounced Bic and whose last name I don’t remember and am too lazy to look up. It’s an engaging memoir about growing up Vietnamese-American in Michigan.
Speaking of books, I’m waiting for someone to write a novel about Scrabble. I haven’t read Dawn Tripp’s Game of Secrets (not to be confused with Game of Thrones), but I have it on my nightstand. I don’t think it has much to do with tournaments, though. I would love to see a novel about Scrabble tournaments, especially the Nationals. So many interesting things happen—people fall in love, make friends, make enemies, learn important truths about themselves. All this in addition to winning and losing and making great plays and blundering and cheating and swearing
The novel could then be turned into a movie, kind of like Qwerty but with more realistic Scrabble depictions. I liked Qwerty, once I got over the fact that it’s not so much a movie about Scrabble, but rather a film that uses Scrabble to reveal character and provide a mechanism to move along the plot. The characters are likeable, the actors don’t overact, and it’s refreshing to see a woman (even though she is under thirty) do so well in the Scrabble world.
Yes, I’m aware of the film’s flaws. The finalists in the big Scrabble tournament play obvious phonies, including three and four letter phonies. They rarely bingo. And, most egregiously, they use the blank for no extra points. Also, the television “commentators” who are analyzing the game make a big deal of the importance of defense in Scrabble. Moments later we are shown very open boards with ample triple-triples opportunities.
Maybe I’ll write a novel about Scrabble—about competition, the complex nature of human interactions, and the perplexity and wonderfulness of words. If I’m offered enough money, I’ll do the screenplay as well. The movie would star Bette Midler as me—the way I am now. The younger me would be played by Ellen Barkin. The character based on Marty would be played by Harrison Ford. The younger Marty would be played by Harrison Ford with youth-enhancing make-up.
Players who don’t follow the rules or who beat me too often in real life would be played by the following: Steve Buscemi, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Danny DeVito, Snooki, Rosie O’Donnell, the guy who played the Russian villain on the television drama 24, and the shark on Jaws.
In the movie I would win most of my games. Closeups would reveal a pair of youthful, perfectly manicured hands putting down bingo after fabulous bingo: outbitch, bagworm, quetzal, reradiate. Of course, Marty would bingo as well: atonies, retinas, banters.
Hey, it’s my movie.