Stephen Potter: Hilarious Gambits, Ploys & Hampers
October 05, 2005
[$20] There's a new movie coming out called "School for Scoundrels" starring Billy Bob Thornton. It's an update of the clever British classic. I suspect it will wallow in exploitation but it might also spark interest in the superb original.
The whole film thing gives me a great excuse to promote the source of it all: the hilarious books of Stephen Potter (no relation).
Here's a 470-page compendium of Potter's 3 main books. These books are rather hard to come by in nice hardcover editions with dustjackets. My inventory is in medium-grade "Very Good" condition. But they're nicer, in a sense, than the paperbacks. I mean, a certain kind of person cares. As for others, well...
It's a send-up of stuffy British clubbishness and the endless ways that "players" have of foiling each other. (It was probably also an inspiration behind Monty Python.)
"The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship" is about the "Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating." A prime gambit involves, when you're losing at a game (and all of life is a game to the clubman), admiring the better player's style and asking them about some fine point. If you can get them to try to explain their superior play, you've got im! He'll botch his next move. Ah ha! All this is delivered in the driest and wittiest of writing styles, complete with typically pedantic British sketchwork.
"One-upsmanship" includes more of the outdoor sports world, including the timeless "Art of Not Climbing"---in which you can appear to your peers to always be coming or going from an extreme climbing venture but avoid ever being actually seen climbing, thus avoiding the need to climb at all and its attendant sweat and danger.
The third book, "Lifemanship," is a send-up of career moves and cultural posing. Such as how to appear to be well-read. How to avoid paying for lunch.
Basically, it's all source material in posing and a send-up of manners and style guides. Posing is a skill every player needs to excel at if they're not going to excel at what they're actually doing.
For those who desire a more stylishly compact and outdoor-focused entre' to this world, I also offer a nice copy of the slimmer single volume of "One-upsmanship" by itself---more info in the "Literature" section.
These books are all rather hard to come by in nice hardcover editions with dustjackets. My copies are only "Very Good." But they're nicer than the paperbacks, if you care about that kind of thing.
I just want to give props to some hilarious inspiration in my own gaming life. Every player truly needs a copy of one of these books.
Shown lifesize (5.25"x7.5"):
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