A few months ago I received an email from a woman by the name of Karen Gooen asking me if I would like to read an advance copy of her book. Why not? Happy to do it, I told her. Little did I know that she would be sending me a book that is not only so much fun to read but also instructive and a mirror image of what I once had gone through as a novice Mah Jongg player. And so, I happily want to tell you about the very humorous, very engaging, and very educational new book by Karen Gooen, “Searching for Bubbe Fischer – The Path to Mah Jongg Wisdom” (isn’t that a fabulous title?!!!).
I am humbled and completely speechless by this review by Tom Sloper on www.sloperama.com. Tom was so generous and kind to agree to write a chapter in the book for us and, along with Michael Stanwick and our other experts, provided amazing gravitas, accuracy, and credibility to Mah Jongg – The Art of the Game.
SLOPER ON MAH-JONGG
|By Tom Sloper (湯姆 斯洛珀)
November 2, The Year Of The Horse 馬
A beautiful new book is coming this month: “Mah Jongg, The Art Of The Game,” by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain. The book gives a rare accurate accounting of the history of mah-jongg (thanks to Michael Stanwick and yours truly), and some gorgeous photographs of exquisite collectible mah-jongg sets, taken by Michel Arnaud.
Renowned mah-jongg historian and scholar Michael Stanwick wrote the text for the first chapter, “A Brief History of Mah Jongg.” I wrote the text for the second chapter, “Mr. Babcock Invents Mah-Jongg™.” I put together facts from an interview with Lisa Lethin (the granddaughter of Babcock’s partner, Anton Lethin) on mahjongmuseum.nl, and facts from Philip Orbanes’ book on the history of board games company Parker Brothers (“The Game Makers”), Milton C. Work’s 1924 book “Mah-Jongg Up-To-Date,” and even patent filings from the nineteen twenties. My chapter thus puts the Babcock story together in a more complete way than has ever been seen in print before.
But enough about me, and my small part of the book. The photos are simply stunning. The authors contacted numerous collectors and obtained photos of some beautiful sets and amazing rare sets, including some historically significant sets that Michael Stanwick has described in his excellent scholarly pieces in the journal of the International Playing Card Society, “The Playing Card.” There are also photos from the early days of mah-jongg. History and stories and spectacular imagery – what more could you want?
The book is hardcover, 8.5″x8.5″ (or if you prefer, 215x215mm). It’s published by Tuttle Publishing, ISBN: 9784805313237. It’s slated to be released on November 18 – just in time for Christmas! It would be a great gift for a mah-jongg enthusiast or collector.
Today’s posting is about a book that is fairly new – it was first published in 2003 but then Tuttle Publishing translated it into English and published the book in 2007 for the American audience. The book is written by Jelte Rep, a Netherlands native who, when not playing Mah Jongg, makes documentary films and writes dramatic television shows. He is a great Mah Jongg enthusiast and his book is very thorough.
As the OMs get to the very last wall and the remaining tiles of the game – our
“Hot Wall” – we recite the following mantra (created by X): “Hot wall, hot wall, not that it means anything…” I always thought there were certain rules you were supposed to follow when the “hot wall” goes out in but in our table rules the OMs just treat it as a signal that the game will be over when the last tile from this wall is discarded. And so, I was surprised to read the following question and answer from Gladys Grad’s monthly column and particularly this sentence:
The NMJL and Standardized Official Tournament Rules do NOT use a hot wall or a cold wall.
A few weeks ago I received a message from Loretta, a friend of this blog. She wrote: “What is an atomic hand? I could not find your winning hand on the card.” Well, that is correct, Loretta – there are no Atomic hands on the NMJL card.
Here is a hand that is going Atomic and all it needs is one more pair. Note that there is a South Wind that has just been discarded on the table. The only time an Atomic player can pick up a discarded tile is to declare Mah Jongg and that is exactly what happens here, as you will see in the next photo.