Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

The Dice Man

Have you ever bumped into an old friend? Someone you have not seen or heard of in two or three decades? I have just had that experience in Bookazine, as there on the shelf was The Dice Man (ISBN 9-7800-0651-3, Harper and Collins, 1999 paperback), a reprint of the book I last read in 1971.

The Dice Man was written by George Cockcroft, under the pen name of Luke Rhinehart, with this character as the central figure in the plot, and in the early 70’s was one of the cult books from the generation that held Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as the mantras of the morrow, and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint society’s sexual awakening (and was banned in Australia).

What immediately draws your attention is the almost cinema verite approach to dialogue, for example, while sitting at the breakfast table, the following occurs, “What time will you be back from Queensborough today?”

“Four thirty or so, why?”

“Arlene wants another private chat this afternoon.”

“Larry took my spoon.”

“Give Evie her spoon, Larry,” I said.

“I imagine she wants to talk more of the …”

All very easily a situation that any parent will relate to.

By page 69 the explanation of the Dice Man concept is given, whereby instead of taking an individual responsibility for his actions, psychiatrist Luke Rhinehart attributes his decision to the roll of the dice. “If it’s a one, I’ll rape Arlene.” He becomes comfortable with this lack of decision by thinking, “a one means rape, the other numbers mean bed, the die is cast. Who am I to question the die?”

From there, the Luke Rhinehart persona becomes more florid, suggesting to those with a defective intellect that the throw of the dice is dictated to by God, and the dice’s options are then by definition divine.

To make his revelation more public, Rhinehart comes up with the concept of Dice Centers and the people who visit them are ‘dicepeople’.

Meanwhile, Dr. Luke Rhinehart swings wildly between his analysis, self-analysis and psychiatric commitment.

Taken to task by his peers, Dr. Rhinehart states that he is developing a new form of therapy. “We encourage our patients to reach decisions by casting dice. The purpose is to destroy the personality. We wish to create in its place a multiple personality: an individual inconsistent, unreliable and progressively schizoid.” By this stage in the book, the reader is wondering just exactly who is off the wall, and who is not! And then one has to look at the analyst dealing with Dr. Rinehart - is he mad also, or is it ‘folie a deaux’?

The copy I reviewed came from the Bookazine shelves and had an RRP of only B. 450. This is a classic book and one of the milestones in literary expression. I enjoyed it just as much (if not more) the second rime around. Described as funny, shocking and subversive, it is all of those and more. Roll the dice, a six means you don’t buy it. A one, two, three, four or five means you do…. The dicepeople claim another victim!