I hope you've all seen the excellent movie Spellbound. I'm referring not to the 1945 Hitchcock classic, but to the 2002 film about the Spelling Bee. This terrific little movie follows eight regional spelling champions, all under fifteen years old, as they compete in a crazy American phenomenon called the National Spelling Bee. If you haven't seen Spellbound, you must! You won't believe how a spelling bee can generate edge-of-your-seat suspense.
Having seen and enjoyed Spellbound when it came out, last night we saw a movie in a similar vein: Word Wars, about the National Scrabble Championships. Word Wars is about obsession and obsessive people more than anything else. It follows the "tiles and tribulations" (groan!) of four people who live, breathe and sleep Scrabble. They've memorized tens of thousands of words (not their meanings, just their existence), studied strategy, explored the upwards limit of mental endurance - and have given their lives over to the pursuit of the Championship. It's a window into a bizarre world, and a nice little movie. (It owes much to the book Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis.)
The Word Wars movie also introduces you to another subculture: the Scrabble players of Washington Square Park, in New York City's Greenwich Village. Washington Square Park is home to a community of highly competitive chess, backgammon and Scrabble players, who play the "street" version of their respective games. Here are some good photos of the famous Washington Square Park chess players.
It was a great surprise to see this part of my beloved city. Like the news of the transit strike, it made me a little homesick - not in the sense of wishing I still lived there, just in a sweet, wistful way, a piece of my life I'll always treasure.
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Here's a great story for me, a lover of words, books, history and Canada.
It's been discovered that a Bible in the University of Manitoba's archives is in fact an extremely rare first edition, first printing of the King James Bible. I have a thing for very old books, and I especially love this collection of Christian mythology as a piece of Renaissance literature. The language is beautiful and evocative, and stands alongside its contemporary Shakespeare as some of the greatest writing in the English language.
How cool that a first edition has surfaced in Canada. Here are some pictures.