Recommended Reads: The Dice Man

“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 Man was first published in 1971, and if you read it today, it is clear that is a bit dated. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is a good read, and if anything, it is a commentary on life as an American professional at that time, narrated by a man who has become completely disillusioned with everything that life has come to mean.

The man in question is Luke Rhineheart (the pen name of author George Cockcroft). Feeling bored with life and unfulfilled in his career as a psychiatrist, he suddenly has the notion that the next decision he makes will be left to chance. From this one moment a new, revolutionary way of life begins, with every decision Luke makes being left to the roll of the dice. Several controversial topics are covered as Luke becomes obsessed with his new way of life – sexual experimentation, murder, and anti corporate sentiments – all left to chance. Luke makes no decision without the dice, and his way of life soon starts to catch on, with friends being invited to Dice Parties and an entire cult being developed around The Dice Man. As the blurb states: Luke spreads his new religion with a hilarious combination of evangelical fervour and moral depravity, turning his life — and in some ways the world — on its ear.

This all sounds a bit bizarre, and that’s exactly what it is. It does seem pretty far fetched that this man would suddenly court so many controversial notions just because he is leaving decisions to chance, and as a narrator, Luke seems to constantly chance from being downright unlikeable, to merely misunderstood, to a bit of a genius – not least because of the liberation the dice way of life seems to provide him. Whether it ultimately provides him with the fulfilment he’s been looking for, however, is another matter.

There have been several editions of this book, and I don’t know now whether I read the original or some watered down version, of which there were one or two, due to its controversial themes and the seemingly rapid spread of the cult of the die amongst the people in the book (this also led to it being banned in certain countries). One edition in the US came with the tag line “This book will change your life.” I don’t know about that (unless you tend to be easily led by authors who studied psychology and experimented with decision making based on chance). But it is an interesting, weird, thought provoking read, with plenty of controversy thrown in.

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