The Dice Man
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First edition cover (US)
|Publisher||William Morrow (US)|
Talmy Franklin (UK)
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||The Search for the Dice Man|
The Dice Man is a 1971 novel by career English professor George Cockcroft, writing under the pen name, "Luke Rhinehart". It tells the story of a psychiatrist who makes life decisions based on the casting of a die. Cockcroft describes the origin of the title idea variously in interview, most recently recalling a college "quirk" he and friends used to decide "what they were going to do that night" based on a die-roll, or sometimes to decide between mildly mischievous pranks. The novel is described by the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy user site as a book that was viewed as subversive, as having "anti-psychiatry sentiment", and as "reflecting the mood of the early 1970s in permissiveness".[better source needed] It has content that includes the protagonist's decisions to engage in rape and murder, and is described as having been "banned in several countries".[better source needed]
At the time of its publication, "[i]t was not clear whether the book was fiction or autobiography", all the more because its protagonist and author were eponymous, both were described as having the same profession (psychiatry), and elements of the described lives of both (e.g., places of residence, date of birth) were also in common; hence, curiosity over its authorship have persisted since its publication. Emmanuel Carrère, writing for The Guardian, presented a long-form expose on Cockroft and the relationship between author and legend, disclosing him as a life-long English professor living "in an old farmhouse with a yard that slopes down to a duck pond", a husband of fifty-years, father of three, and a caregiver to a special needs child.
On its initial publication, the cover bore the confident subheader, "Few novels can change your life. This one will"; in the United States this was altered to read, "This book will change your life".[better source needed] The book quickly became,[verification needed] and remains thought of as a cult classic.[better source needed] Writing in 2017 for The Guardian, Tanya Gold noted that "over the course of 45 years" it was still in print, had become famous, had devoted fans, and had "sold more than 2m copies in multiple languages." As well, it has been republished a number of times.[clarification needed] It initially sold poorly in the United States, but well in Europe, particularly England, Sweden, Denmark, and Spain. Cockroft continued themes of the book[clarification needed] in two other novels, Adventures of Wim (1986) and The Search for the Dice Man (1993), and in a companion title, The Book of the Die (2000), none of which achieved the commercial success of The Dice Man.
As stated at the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy user site:
The book tells the story... of a psychologist named Luke [Rhinehart] who, feeling bored and unfulfilled in life, starts making decisions... based on a roll of a dice. Along the way, there is sex, rape, murder, 'dice parties', breakouts by psychiatric patients, and various corporate and governmental machines being put into a spin. There is also a description of the cult that starts to develop around the man, and the psychological research he initiates, such as the 'F**k without Fear for Fun and Profit' programme.[better source needed]
This section needs expansion with: a standard Wikipedia presentation of the section subject, including publishers, changes in title or subtitle, to forwards, etc. You can help by adding to it. (November 2019)
- ISBN 0-900735-00-7 - September 9, 1971
- ISBN 0-246-11058-9 - July, 1978
- ISBN 0-586-03765-9 - April 13, 1989
- ISBN 0-87951-864-2 - July, 1998
- ISBN 0-00-651390-5 - December 15, 1999
- ISBN 0-00-716121-2 - April 7, 2003
- Carrère, Emmanuel (7 November 2019). "Who is the Real Dice Man? The Elusive Writer Behind the Disturbing Cult Novel". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
It was not clear whether the book was fiction or autobiography, but its author, Luke Rhinehart, had the same name as his hero and, like him, he was a psychiatrist. According to the back cover, he lived in Majorca... 'Psychiatrist? Psychoanalyst?' George repeats, as surprised as if I had said cosmonaut. No, he was never a psychiatrist, he has been a college English teacher all his life... / Really? But on the cover of his book... / George shrugs as if to say, editors, journalists, you know, there is almost nothing they won’t write... / ...[Cockroft] handles the wheel with an abruptness that contrasts with his good humour and makes his wife laugh. It is moving to see how the two love each other, and when Ann tells me in passing that they have been married for 50 years, I am not surprised. / They live in an old farmhouse with a yard that slopes down to a duck pond. They have three grown boys, two of whom live nearby. One is a carpenter and the other is a housepainter; the third still lives at home. He is schizophrenic, Ann tells me matter-of-factly; he is doing fine at the moment, but I shouldn’t worry if I hear him speaking a bit loudly in his room, which is right beside the guest room where I will be staying.
- Adams, Tim (27 August 2000). "Dicing with Life". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
Originally he had seen the dice as a way of breaking down some of the habitual stiffness he disliked in his own character: 'I was a shy, uptight sort of guy in my teens and early twenties, and tremendously driven to succeed, get A grades and so on, and I did not like either of those characteristics one bit...' / He had the notion that by rolling a dice to make decisions, about what to read, where to go, how to react to people, he could bring risk into his life, which he otherwise seemed naturally indisposed toward. In this way, he hoped, he could turn himself into someone else. / At the time, Cockcroft was... leading a seminar on freedom—Nietzsche and Sartre—and he asked his class... whether perhaps the ultimate freedom was not to 'get away from habit and causality and make all your decisions by casting dice'. His students were either so appalled or so intrigued by the idea that Cockcroft knew immediately that this was something worth writing about. / ...progress on the novel was slow, and by the time he completed it he was 37, living in Majorca with his family... It was there that, by chance, he ran into a publisher in Deya who said he would look at the book. / Some months later when the paperback rights were sold for $50,000, Cockcroft and his family were living a dice life on a sailboat in the Mediterranean. By that time, Cockcroft says, he knew that the dice were probably just a gimmick to have fun with, or to get from one place in your life to another place, 'but once you got somewhere you were happy, you'd be stupid to shake it up any further...'
- See Carrère, The Guardian, 7 November 2019, op. cit. Quoting that source: "The dice was a quirk the young George picked up in college. He and his friends used it on Saturdays to decide what they were going to do that night. Sometimes, they dared each other to do stuff: hop around the block on one leg, ring a neighbour’s doorbell, nothing too mischievous. When I ask, hopefully, whether he pushed these experiences further as an adult, he shrugs his shoulders and smiles apologetically because he can tell that I would like something a little spicier."
- For an account that describes the origin of the idea in the years between Cockcroft's teens and early twenties in a self-help effort to move him away from shyness and uptightness through risk-taking, in areas such as "what to read, where to go, how to react to people," see Adams, The Guardian, 27 August 2000, op. cit.
- For an account that describes the origin of the idea in Cockcroft at the age of 16 years, likewise in an effort to move him away, first, from procrastination, and later, from shyness, see Gold, The Guardian, 4 March 2017, op. cit.
- Gold, Tanya (4 March 2017). "Three days with The Dice Man: 'I never wrote for money or fame'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
The book was published in 1971, an era devoted to psychoanalysis (not the mocking of it), and it was not an instant success. But over the course of 45 years, it has become a famous book, with devoted fans. The Dice Man has sold more than 2m copies in multiple languages and is still in print... / As his notoriety grew, journalists came to interview the Dice Man. But Luke Rhinehart does not exist: he is the pseudonym of a man called George Powers Cockcroft, who shielded his real identity from his readers for many years... / As a boy, he was shy and compliant, and began to use the dice at 16. He was a procrastinator: 'So I would make a list of things to do in a day and the dice would choose which one I did first.' Then he began to use the dice 'to force myself to do things I was too shy to do. If the dice chose it, then somehow that made it possible.' / [The Dice Man] did badly in America, partly, Cockcroft thinks, because of a cover jacket featuring a naked woman lying on a bed. But it did better in Europe, particularly in England, Sweden, Denmark and now Spain, where it was for a time the most requested library book in Spanish universities.
- Anonymous contributors (11 March 2008). "Luke Rhinehart—Author". h2g2.com. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
Luke's first book, The Dice Man was published in 1971 with the confidant subheader, 'This book can change your life'. It quickly became a cult classic, as people read it and passed it around. Some in authority saw it as subversive, reflecting the mood of the early 1970s in permissiveness, and anti-psychiatry sentiment, and it was banned in several countries. It went through a number of republishings—in the USA it got the even more confident subheader 'Few novels can change your life. This one will', but was cut somewhat from the original. Perhaps because of this, and despite the author and the character both being American, it was slightly less successful than in the UK and Scandinavia... The book tells the story (there is a persistent rumour that the book is based on a true story) of a psychologist named Luke who, feeling bored and unfulfilled in life, starts making decisions about what to do based on a roll of a dice. Along the way, there is sex, rape, murder, 'dice parties', breakouts by psychiatric patients, and various corporate and governmental machines being put into a spin. There is also a description of the cult that starts to develop around the man, and the psychological research he initiates, such as the 'F**k without Fear for Fun and Profit' programme.
- Dickson, E. Jane (4 November 2000). "Striptease at the Roll of the Dice". The Times.[full citation needed]
- Fann, Kelly (2011). Trott, Barry (ed.). "Tapping Into The Appeal of Cult Fiction". Reference and User Services Quarterly. 51 (1): 15–18. doi:10.5860/rusq.51n1.15.[better source needed]