Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart

Review of The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart

In many ways this is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while. The main character, Luke Rhinehart (the book is written under this pseudonym), is a therapist in New York. Having become bored with his unremarkable middle-class life, he suddenly decides to run his life according the dictates of dice. After an evening of gaming, he notices a card that is propped up on a die. Unable to see the die itself he decides that if the die is showing a one, he will go downstairs to his friend and colleague’s apartment and rape his wife. When revealed, it’s a one.

The subsequent scene isn’t a rape – his friend’s wife is fairly easily coaxed into sex. Flushed with this success, Rhinehart decides to give over more and more of his decisions to a die or a pair of dice. He draws up a list of possible actions and then rolls to see what he will do. At first, these are pretty minor decisions – what he’s going to do tomorrow, what he’s going to wear. Later he decides more and more with his dice – he rolls to see what goals he will have over the next year, he rolls to see what personality he will have for the day, he rolls for major life-changing decisions. The book itself, he writes is the result of a die roll telling him to write his autobiography.

The philosophy the character develops to support his new way of life is particularly interesting. Basically, he maintains that in the past, in a pre-industrial, pre-technological society, life was very simple: there were very few real choices a person could make. In today’s society (actually, the book was written around 1970), however, the world has become multifacted, fractured into so many choices and is falsified by so much doublespeak that it has become mentally ill: society has a multiple personality disorder, society is psychotic. The only way to survive in such disunified society, he says, is to abandon the unified personality, to become random.

The rush of intoxicating this lifestyles give the narrator and the other characters who take to it is actually quite believable. There also seems to be a sound psychological basis to it: the options one gives the dice are not ones one would never under any curcumstance, but ones that may only ever exist as daydreams or repressed urges. By acting out an unusual die roll, the diceman or -woman is give vent to a minority personality that may never otherwise see the light of day.

While I think the book has some very serious import, it is also a comedy. Naturally, lots of ridiculous things happen. In the first instance of diceliving, Luke goes down to his neighbour and says, I’ve come to rape you. Rhinehart tells of a man who suffered from terrible death anxiety. He cured it by using dice. Each morning he would roll the dice. If he rolled double one, he would play Russian roulette with his revolver. Each morning, therefore, he had a one in 216 chance of killing himself. This activity freed him from his constant worries about dying. Rhinehart concludes the anecdote by saying the man will be sorely missed.

The main character remains grounded by keeping in contact with his wife, colleagues and friends – most of whom adopt dicelife to some degree. He becomes a guru, opens a chain of dicelife therapy centres. His colleagues fret over his seeming descent into madness and, needless to say, he gets into a lot of trouble.

One weak point of the book is that it often seems cheesily pornographic. You get the impression that Luke simply gave over his life to the dice in order to get more sex, and that the author wrote it in order to include lots sex scenes. As a man, I wasn’t particularly offended by this, but, along with the fact that its gender politics is forty years old, I don’t think women would be much impressed by the novel. Which is a shame, because there’s a very interesting idea and story here.

Categories: Literature, Reviews
  1. 21 January 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Good review, I just finished reading it and loved every page. One of my favourite chapters was when Jake Ecstein was spending time at one of the dice centers and discovered self pity!I will also write a review of the book as it’s one of the best I have ever read.

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