It’s strange reading a book such as The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart that was written 40 years ago, especially when it is not a book that has featured on my radar and about which I knew none of the hype and folklore that surrounded it.
How often do you read the ‘blurb’ on the back cover of a book before buying it? In the case of The Dice Man this is an interesting foray. “This book will change your life”, says the epithet emblazoned on the jacket. That’s a brave quotation, and one which didn’t quit prove true for me, but that’s not to say it hasn’t changed the lives of hundreds of readers over the years!
This cult classic novel was written by George Cockcroft under the pen name of Luke Rhinehart, and it is Dr. Luke Rhinehart, the eponymous New York psychotherapist and anti-hero, who is the protagonist in the story and narrator of events. When Rhinehart finds a pair of die under a playing card after a party, he decides to let dice determine his actions. Living your life by the roll of the dice can be perilous, and as the narrative progresses even our narrator himself finds that his dicelife is getting out of control. Some of his dice-dictated actions are purely whimsical, whilst others go against his own sense of morality. Eventually it all comes down to how far Rhinehart is willing to go in allowing the dice to decide his actions for him?
The novel includes passages from “The Book of the Die,” a fictional work that parodies the Bible. ‘The Die is God’, Rhinehart says when trying to convince a deluded young girl who had been part of his ‘scientific study’ and research into sexual change. Letting the dice decide seems to be the only way to freedom and truth, and Rhinehart attempts to lead his patients down the slippery slope of dice playing, leading to moral depravity where sex is almost always an option.
The writing is peppered with humour, and sex… lots of sex, sometimes quite brutal and in some cases it seems gratuitous, as if Rhinehart was just writing for the shock effect. There are some laugh-out-loud moments that would translate to the big screen very well. One in particular, a breakout from the mental institution, is reminiscent of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, and seeing as the book was first published in 1971 it is utterly of its era, representing the late sixties and early seventies and the culture of sex, drugs and…. dice!
The Dice Man is both entertaining and shocking at the same time, certainly not one for the faint- hearted and one that will definitely divide opinion. Since the publication of this book many people have taken up playing the die and regard it as a new religion. I rolled the dice (just one!) to see what I should write in this review!
1. An honest critique 2. A total lie 3. Whether I should write it at all 4. Translate it in a foreign language 5. Submit a blank page 6. Write it after a few too many glasses of wine! I rolled a 1!
Has The Dice Man changed your life?
Let me know here.