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The Dice Man ()

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

    Romans 7:14-25

Out of all our members, only two completed the book as many put it down after feeling disturbed and annoyed by the main protagonist...
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Bar Bar Book Club)

It is hard to be more out of step with our times than to joke--frequently--about rape. But that's a staple of this comic novel, which some readers will find off-putting and all will find discomfiting. You see, Dr. Luke Rhinehart, the main character of the novel and putatively the author, is a young psychiatrist who wants to break free of his ego and the superego and indulge his id. But, of course, this requires repudiating morality. So he decides to let dice rolls dictate all his behaviors. One of the first rolls tells him to go rape his colleague's wife, who lives downstairs in the same apartment building. As the rolls pile up he will convert her to the dicelife, enlist his children and his wife, obey the command to leave his family, found a national movement and therapy centers based on his new lifestyle and eventually even be sodomized and commit murder. In his wake the modern Dr. Jekyll leaves broken relationships, broken families, and a trail of other victims.

In the hands of George Cockcroft, the actual author, this is all much funnier than you'd think it could be, even if, or because, it is so brutal. It's obvious throughout that he sending up the field of psychiatry. As his behavior becomes more and more erratic, before he's revealed that he's following the way of the die, his colleagues offer inanely Freudian excuses for him. But the author has bigger fish to fry. His target here is the ancient desire of Man to break out of the human condition itself:
What if the sense of being someone represents an evolutionary error as disastrous to the further development of a more complex creature as was the shell for snails or turtles?

He he he. What if? indeed: men must attempt to eliminate the error and develop in themselves and their children liberation from the sense of self. Man must become comfortable in flowing from one role to another, one set of values to another, one life to another. Men must be free from boundaries, patterns and consistencies in order to be free to think, feel and create in new ways. Men have admired Prometheus and Mars too long; our God must become Proteus.
The dice are meant to be the means to this end, replacing the human conscience (ego) and moral and social laws (super-ego) with random chance as the guide to behavior and liberating the individual from any responsibility for his actions. Of course, the reality is that Rhinehart's solution is a less radical idea than he believes. It is ultimately just self-indulgence. The roller is, after all, selecting the required actions corresponding to each side of the die--rape is only a possibility because he wants it to be. He has really just found a way to indulge his basest desires and dressed it up in an intellectual facade:
"What if your felling that all desires are unreliable and all belief illusions is right, is the mature, valid vision of reality, and the rest of mem are living under illusions which your experience has permitted you to shed?"

"Of course, that's what I think," she said.

"Then why not act upon your belief?"

The smile left her face and she frowned, still not looking at me.

"What do you mean?"

"Treat all of your desires as if they had equal vale and each of your beliefs as if it were as much an illusion as the next."


"Stop trying to create a pattern, a personality; just do whatever you feel like."

"But I don't feel like doing anything; that's the trouble."

"That's because you're letting one desire, the desire to believe strongly and be a clearly defined person, inhibit the rest of your various desires."

"Maybe, but I don't see how I can change it."

"Become a dice person."
Here we are well beyond mere psychiatry, and any pretensions it may have to aid in fully integrating patients; here is the attempt to abolish the human person in toto, to leave morality and the common good behind in favor of mere passions.
To change man, the audience by which he judges himself must be changed. A man is defined by his audience: by the people, institutions, authors, magazines, movie heroes, philosophers by whom he pictures himself being cheered and booed. Major psychological disturbances, 'identity crises', are caused when an individual begins to change the audience for whom he plays: from parents to peers; from peers to the works of Albert Camus; from the Bible to Hugh Hefner.
And who is the ultimate audience? God, of course. Because morality depends not on the subjective self, but on rules established by an (The) objective arbiter. Men seek to deny God for no other reason than to escape the moral law.

While Rhinehart/Cockcroft does not engage in the exercise, we can learn something valuable, irrespective of your personal beliefs, by reverse-engineering his story. The deep insight in the novel is the dependence of a decent and functional society on the stability and predictability of each individual within it. ?The humor of the book derives from how transgressive the Dice Man is but that is also what makes him so unlikable. In any social interaction with a man whose behavior is unbounded by norms you can not place any trust in him. A man who is free to rob, rape or kill you and yours is a man you ought to kill first. The dicelife is not a summons to freedom but to anarchy, to nature red in tooth and claw. In pushing "liberation" ideology to the extreme, the novel ends up being a call to maintain the unyielding morality Rhinehart rebels against. The decent life is bound by 10 Commands and order, not by six sides of a die and chance.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Luke Rhinehart Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Luke Rhinehart
    -OBIT: The Dice Man author George Cockcroft (aka Luke Rhinehart) dies aged 87: Writing under a pseudonym, Cockcroft was most famous for the 1971 cult classic novel about a psychiatrist who lets chance decide his life (Alison Flood, 11/18/20, The Guardian)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Luke Rhinehart (IMDB)
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Dice Man
    -ALBUM: The Dice Man Speaks by Rhinehart & Weazel (Dice Man Records)
    -EXCERPT: Excerpts from The Dice Man (Heretical)
    -ESSAY: Five Sci-Fi Novels That Satirize Society As We Know It (Luke Rhinehart, Sep 9, 2016, Tor)
    -ENTRY: Luke Rhinehart - Author (Martin Harper, Mar 14, 2001, h2g2 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition)
    -LIST: 50 best cult books (Daily Telegraph, 12 MARCH 2016)
    -LIST: The cult books that lost their cool: From the self-indulgent to the tiresomely macho, Hephzibah Anderson chooses her picks of previously hip books that have not aged well. (Hephzibah Anderson, 23rd September 2019, BBC)
    -VIDEO: Extreme Productivity Experiments: The Diceman: Graham Allcott explains his extreme productivity experiment for February 2013 - The Diceman, and what he learned from the experience. (Think Productive, May 14, 2015)
    -PROFILE: Who is the real Dice Man? The elusive writer behind the disturbing cult novel: A search for the mysterious author of a counterculture classic led to someone else entirely. Or did it? (Emmanuel Carrère, 7 Nov 2019, The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW: The dice man cometh: Even the price of a ticket to the new stage version of Luke Rhinehart's sinister cult novel depends on a throw of the dice. Chance is a fine thing, the book's author tells Rebecca Tyrrel(Rebecca Tyrrel, 09 Feb 2004, The Telegraph)
    -INTERVIEW: Dicing with life: Tim Adams talks to Luke Rhinehart, author of cult novel The Dice Man, about the pleasures and frustrations of a life lived according to chance (Tim Adams, 26 Aug 2000, The Guardian)
    -PROFILE: Luke Rhinehart: Throw and tell : Imagine if your every decision was made by the roll of a dice. That was the premise behind Luke Rhinehart's cult 1970 novel The Dice Man. And, as this semi-autobiographical work enjoys a cult revival, David Usborne finds the author still happily gambling with his life (David Usborne, 5 May 2003, Independent)
He started dicing as a teenager because of his interest in sports. Sitting at home, he would create whole baseball games simply by letting a pair of dice decide their course. Throw two sixes and the player would hit a home run, and so on. But then he tells the story of the summer when, aged 21, he was doing a post-graduate literature degree at Columbia University and had taken a casual job at a mental hospital on Long Island.

"I was driving off the hospital grounds one day and noticed two attractive nurses walking along the side of the road. I went past them, and then I thought, no, I should stop and pick them up. I stopped beside the road, took out the die, and said, 'If this falls on an odd number, I will turn round, go back and offer them a ride.' And I shook the die and it came out that I should turn round and try to pick them up.

"So I did. And they agreed to get in the car with me. I asked them where they were going and they were going to confession. So I had to drop them off at the church. But, meanwhile, I arranged to play tennis with them the next day, both of them. The next day we played tennis and it was at that point that my eye fixated on one of the two nurses, the one whose lovely breasts were bouncing up and down as she ran after the ball. And these many years later, I am still married to this woman."

Years later, Rhinehart started teaching literature at university. "One year, when I came back from Mexico where I had been teaching, I was taking a seminar on freedom. I talked to the students about making decisions in life by the casting of dice as the ultimate freedom. It was so shocking to them, and they were so fascinated by

    -PROFILE: When the Yes Man met the Dice Man (Danny Wallace, 29 March 2012, GQ)
    -INTERVIEW: Three days with The Dice Man: ‘I never wrote for money or fame': His 1971 novel was a countercultural sensation, selling 2m copies. But the author, who goes by the pseudonym Luke Rhinehart, has surrounded himself in mystery. Why? (Tanya Gold, 4 Mar 2017, The Guardian)
    -PROFILE: Meeting The Dice Man (Richard Branson, 27 October 2015, Virgin)
    -PROFILE: In search of The Dice Man: An extraordinary journey to track down a cult author: When Steve Boggan tried to track down the creator of the cult novel, The Dice Man, he was told the author had died. And then the plot really thickened (Steve Boggan, 12 January 2013, Independent)
    -PROFILE: ‘The Dice Man’ Still on its 45 Year Roll (Matt Molgaard, August 3, 2016, Horror Novel Reviews)
    -INTERVIEW: Luke Rhinehart on being Naked Before the World in Deià: In which The Dice Man author Luke Rhinehart talks about Naked Before the World, his hilariously funny, sexy satire of The Mediterranean Institute and hippy life in Deià. (Charles Marlow, January 27, 2017)
    -INTERVIEW: Diceliving in Deia: An interview with Luke Rhinehart (Charles Marlow, June 29, 2015)
    -PROFILE: A writer's life: Luke Rhinehart: Helen Brown finds the Dice Man on a roll (Helen Brown, 18 Jul 2005, The Telegraph)
    -PROFILE: MEETING LUKE RHINEHART (Documentally, JUN 28 2018)
    -ESSAY: Living Like The Dice Man (Michael Reeve, Hack Circus)
    -PROFILE: Dicey Decisions: George Cockcroft is a psychiatrist who makes all of his life decisions with a roll of the dice (Kara-Lis Coverdale, July 6, 2012, Vice)
    -ESSAY: Amateurs (Georgia Jeffries, SEPTEMBER 21, 2011, LA Review of Books)
    -INTERVIEW: Quick Fire At The Slaughterhouse: Interview With Luke Rhinehart (Richard Godwin, October 10, 2018, The Slaughterhouse)
    -INTERVIEW: Luke Rhinehart (James Ellis, 10/27/09, Metro)
    -ESSAY: The Dice Man Finds a New Generation of Cult Followers,/a> (PRWEB, FEBRUARY 03, 2015)
-ESSAY: Luke Rhinehart's Six-Sided Unconscious: The Diceman and Psychoanalysis (Fionn Coughlan- Wills, Academia)
    -ARTICLE: Luke Rhinehart novels bound for big screen (Stuart Kemp, 10/14/09, AP)
    -PROFILE: Dicing with death: How far should a journalist go to get the story? Sleep with a celebrity? Put their life in danger? Janine Gibson meets Ben Marshall, who's taken speed and heroin for the sake of a byline (Janine Gibson, 13 Jun 1999, The Guardian)
    -PROFILE: The opposite of toxic: What would happen if you stopped saying no? If you said yes to everything anyone asked you? Would life take a turn for the better? Danny Wallace decided to give it a go - and the gamble paid off with a new book, a film deal and a new girlfriend. Zoe Williams meets the poster boy for positive thinking (Zoe Williams, Jul 2005 , The Guardian)
    -LYRICS: The Dice Man (The Annotated Fall)
    -SHOW: THe Diceman (Russell Harris, December 2019)
    -REVIEW: of The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart (Jack Richardson, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Michael Kenward, New Scientist)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Melvin Maddocks, Life)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Ishmael Smith, Life Changing Novels)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Sheila Heti, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Mobile Mojo Man)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Luke Edley, Thanet Writers)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Ultimate Library)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Bar Bar Book Club)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Andrew Barger)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Sammy Evans, For Reading Addicts)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Professional Moron)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Infinite Probability)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (With Hidden Noise)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Bartleby)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Noel Kay, All Star Slots)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (about faces)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Adventures in Mediocity)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Joanne, BookLore)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Jo Wyndham Ward)
    -REVIEW: of Dice Man (Hannah Chutzpah)
    -REVIEW: of The Book of est by Luke Rhinehart (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Long Voyage Back by Luke Rhinehart (kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Book of the Die by Luke Rhinehart (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Invasion by Luke Rhinehart (Financial Times)
    -REVIEW: of Invasion (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Invasion (Chris Heyman, Shoreline of Infinity)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: A Nietzschean Interpretation of the Self in Psychological Continuity (Harry P. Chalklin, 2019, Inquiries Journal)