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Literature / The Dice Man

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''"Anybody can be anybody"
Luke Rhinehart

The Dice Man is a novel published in 1971 by George Cockcroft under the pen name Luke Rhinehart and tells the story of a psychiatrist who begins making life decisions based on the casting of dice. It's generally regarded as as cult Black Comedy classic.

Luke Rhinehart, respected psychiatrist and family man, is in a slump. Bored to insanity by his humdrum life, he conducts a psychological experiment to destroy the self, by letting the role of a die determine his next actions. From here, after surrendering his will, he takes all the risks he's denied himself. The path of the dice however, leads him to become a cult leader, adulterer, underground activist, millionaire, asylum inmate, murderer and fugitive.

Not to be confused with the British travel documentary inspired by the work which shares its name, the Dice Man Comic Book / Game Book hybrid or with comedian Andrew "Dice" Clay.

This work provides us examples of:

  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Luke Rhinehart's wife, Lilith, was once the cheer captain of her high school.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: When a patient tells Luke he likes to sodomize and kill young girls, Luke is depressed that he can't tell anyone due to patient confidentiality. In reality, a practitioner should break confidentiality as soon as s/he thinks the patient will be a danger to themselves or others.
  • Asshole Victim: The Dice eventually command Luke to commit murder near the end of the book, however the target is the thoroughly loathsome Frank Osterflood (mentioned above): a paedophile, Serial Killer and Straw Misogynist to boot.
  • Author Avatar: Significantly downplayed, but George Cockcroft himself experimented with making decisions via dice, however never to the extent of Luke.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The essence of correct 'diceliving': one's personality, behaviour and actions are solely controlled by the will of the Die, and can as such change dramatically at almost any time.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Luke's behavior is initially downplayed as this.
  • Comedic Sociopath: Luke again.
  • Cult: Eventually, 'diceliving' starts to catch on, with Luke and a small group of associates forming the "DICELIFE Foundation" with the help of a sympathetic wealthy backer and setting up "Centres for Experiences in Totally Random Environments" across the country to spread their philosophy. It is swiftly denounced by most establishment media and religions as dangerous crackpot nonsense, but that does little to change its strong appeal to millions.
  • Famed in Story: As the popularity of the 'dicelife' grows, Luke becomes a well-known if very controversial figure, being profiled in Time and appearing on television.
  • Hollywood Midlife Crisis: Luke appears to be suffering from a rather extreme version of this: his dissatisfaction with stable and boring family and professional lives leads him to not only to embark on the standard extramarital affair(s), but completely reject the rules of society with his "Way of the Die" and become the leader of an expanding cult.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: The Dice command Luke to murder his former patient, the psychopathic Serial Killer Frank Osterflood. He does this by accompanying Frank to visit a prostitute, and offering him a glass of whiskey laced with strychnine. Luke then proceeds to screw the prostitute while Frank lays dying on the floor. Ick.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Luke's first dice-determined decision is whether or not to rape his best friend's wife.
  • The Pornomancer: Luke appears to be able to seduce just about anyone, including his very prim and proper secretary.
  • Really Gets Around: A significant portion of the narrative seems to be devoted to Luke's various sexual conquests throughout his 'dicelife'.
  • Sexy Packaging: Note the nude woman on the above cover image.
  • Shown Their Work: The parodies of Freudian, Jungian and behavioral psychology.
  • Übermensch: Luke and his Way of the Dice.