Who is the real Dice Man? The elusive writer behind the disturbing cult novel

The long predict: A sought for the inexplicable scribe of a counterculture classic led to someone else solely. Or did it?

Toward the end of the 1960 s, Luke Rhinehart worked as a psychoanalyst in New York and was borne potent. He lived in a reasonably apartment with a neat judgment. He practised yoga, read books on Zen, dreamed vaguely from participating in a cooperative but did not dare. As a healer, he was resolutely nondirective. If a patient who still had not lost his virginity was blighted by cruel impulses and said on Rhinehart’s couch that he would like to rape and kill a little girl, his professional ethics impelled him to repeat with a soothe spokesperson:” You’d like to abuse and kill a little girl ?” No ruling. But what he wanted to say was:” Well, go ahead, then! If what really turns you on is abusing and killing a little girl, then stop boring me with this fantasy. Do it !”

He checked himself before coming out with such monstrosities, but they obsessed him more and more. His own fantasizes were nothing extreme- not enough to get him sent to prison- but like everybody else, he stopped himself going through with them. What Luke would have liked, for example, was to sleep with Arlene, the wife of his colleague Jake Ecstein, who lived across the landing. But as a loyal partner, he let the idea simmer apart in the back of his mind.

So life ploddings on, mollify and sad, until one darknes after a dinner party, when he has had a little too much to booze. Rhinehart considers a dice lying on the carpet, a tiresome playing dice, and gets the idea of throwing it and acting on its regulations. He says to himself:” If it lands on a number from two to six, I’ll do what I would have done anyway: wreaking the dirty glasses back to the kitchen, brush my teeth, take a double aspirin, go to bed beside my sleeping bride, and maybe masturbate discreetly thinking of Arlene. But if I roll a one, I’ll do what I actually wishing to: I know Arlene’s at home alone tonight, so I’ll go across the hall, knock on her door and slept with her .”

The dice regions on one. Rhinehart pauses, feeling vaguely that he is standing on a threshold: if he sweeps it, his life could change. But “its not” his decision, it is the dice’s, so he obeys. Arlene opens the door in a negligee; she is caught but not bring out. When Rhinehart comes back home two extremely pleasant hours later, he realises that he has changed. He did something he wouldn’t normally do.

From now on, he always consults the dice. Since it has six line-ups, he imparts it six options. The first is to do what he has always done. The five others depart more or less plainly from this number. Once it has been subjected to the dice, even the most anodyne choice- that of a cinema, a restaurant- opens a immense array of possibilities for putting your number behind you.

His options soon are becoming ever more brash. Going somewhere he would never proceed, to be informed about people he would otherwise never encounter. He propagandizes his patients to leave their families and jobs, to change their political and sex directions. His reputation suffers, but Rhinehart does not care. What he likes , now, is doing the exact opposite of what he would normally do: putting salt in his chocolate, canting in a tuxedo, going to work in shorts, pee-pee in the flowerpots, stepping backward, sleeping under his bed. His wife concludes him strange, but he says it is a mental experiment, and she gives herself be lulled into believing it. Until the working day he gets the idea of start his children.

One weekend when their baby is not there, Rhinehart gets his little son and girlfriend to play this apparently innocent game: you write six things you would like to do on a piece of paper, and the dice elects one of them. It all goes well at the start: they munch ice cream, “re going to the” zoo. Then his son becomes bolder and says that one thing he would like to do is travel beat up a son who defects him at institution.” OK, write it down ,” Rhinehart says, and “thats what” the dice rolls. The son meditates his father won’t prepare him go through with it, but his dad says:” Go onward .” The son goes to his friend’s place, makes him several times, and comes back to the house with his eyes reflecting and questions:” Where are the dice, Dad ?”

That determines Rhinehart stop and think: if his son so naturally chooses this practice of being, it is because he is not yet altogether warped by the absurd notion that it is good for children to develop a coherent persona. What if they were brought up differently, dedicating pride of place to contradiction, profusion and relentless alteration? Luke gravely studies of free-spoken his son from the dreadful cruelty of the ego and meeting him the first man altogether subject to chance. Then his wife returns and discovers what has been going on. Not feeling it funny in the least, she leaves Rhinehart and makes the children with her.

Next, it is his profession that Rhinehart vacates, after dishonour himself( on the dice’s educations) at an evening with the cream of New York psychoanalysts. With no kinfolk, operate or personal ties, he is free to move from transgression to transgression. Eventually, the day comes when the dice pushes him to do things that he had not only never dared to do, but didn’t want to do, since they were raced counter to his appetites, his libidoes, his whole personality. But that’s just it: the personality- the lamentable, inessential identity- is the enemy to be done away with, the conditioning that “youve got to” free yourself from.

Sooner or last-minute, he could not avoided writing “murder” on his list of options. When the dice requires him to get it on, Rhinehart is forced to draw up a inventory of six possible casualties, in which he courageously includes his two children. Luckily for him, he is spared that particular ordeal: the dice simply involves that he kill one of his former patients.

If you believe his autobiography, he went through with it, although sure-fire reporters indecision it. What does seem certain is that having broke his profession, his family life and his stature, Rhinehart was ready to become a prophet, and that is what he did. In these times when “the worlds largest” paradoxical cares prospered from one place of the US to the other, a leader with a dice had every chance of alluring partisans. So he proves the Middle for Experimentations in Totally Random Environments, where you enrol of your own free will but undertake not to leave until the venture is over. In time, students are expected to commit to roleplays of motley spans: you list six personality types and for 10 hours, an hour, a period, a few weeks, a few months, or a year, adopting such one that the dice decides.

Some of the partisans of dice care proceeded absurd. Others died or ended up in prison. Some, it seems, reached a state of nirvana. During their short-lived cosmo, Rhinehart’s centres became as obscene as Timothy Leary’s societies: local schools of chaos posing as serious a threat to civilisation as socialism or the satanism of Charles Manson, as the conservative newspapers had it. The death of the undertaking is shrouded in obscurity. It is said that Rhinehart was arrested by the FBI, that he spent 20 times in a psychiatric hospital. Or that he was dead. Or that he never existed at all.

Everything I have just told comes from a journal, The Dice Man, published in the US in 1971 and translated into French the following year. I was 16 when I discovered it, as a seriously apprehensive teenage with long whisker, an afghan cap and little round glasses. For a while, I walked around with a dice in my pocket, counting on it to give me the self-confidence I lacked with girls.( Not that it worked too well .) The Dice Man is the kind of book that not only satisfies books but too commits them a planned of rules for life: a manual for subversion.

It was not clear whether the book was story or autobiography, but its author, Luke Rhinehart, had the same name as his superstar and, like him, he was a psychiatrist. Harmonizing to the back cover, he lived in Majorca- apparently the ideal refuge for a prophet at the end of his halter, who has just managed to escape from his shipwrecked society of maniacs. The times elapsed, The Dice Man remained the object of a minor but persistent cult, and each time I encountered someone who had read it( almost always a pothead, and often a adherent of the I Ching ), the same questions came up: what was true in the book? Who was Luke Rhinehart? What had become of him?

After The Dice Man was put forward in discourse a little while back, I started to wonder once again what had become of Luke Rhinehart. In an hour online, of course, I learned more about Rhinehart than I had in 30 years of idle conjecture.

Luke Rhinehart, scribe of The Dice Man Photograph: Sarah Lee/ The Guardian

His real name is George Cockcroft, and though no longer young, he is alive. He has written other bibles, but none as successful as The Dice Man, which nearly 50 times after it came out is still a cult classic. Dozens of areas is also committed to it, and just as numerous tales run about it. Ten hours it was almost adapted for the cinema, but mysteriously the project never came about. Societies of followers of the dice still exist all over the world. As for the fictitious columnist, he lives as a hermit on a remote farm in upstate New York. One special photo of him starts the rounds: it testifies a bitchy, gaunt face under a stetson. I imagine Luke Rhinehart as something like Carlos Castaneda, William Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon rolled into one: an icon of the most radical subversion, transformed into an invisible somebody. I decides that I must meet him.

One detail should have warned me that my initial meanings were not quite right: my invisible mortal has his own website, through which I was able to contact him. He answered my letter in less than an hour, with surprising good forgivenes for a recluse. I wanted to come from France to interview him? What a good suggestion! When I crowded him in on the reason for my visit, he told me that he hoped he was not going to disappoint me: on my sought for Luke Rhinehart I was going to meet George Cockcroft, and George Cockcroft, in his own utterances, was an old fart. I took this warning as mistaken modesty.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been in contact with some admirers of the dice on the internet, and on my road through New York I invite one to dinner. Ron is 30, establishes himself as a conceptual artist and urban raider, and fronts a community of dice people who meet every month for what, under all the new-age jargon, seems to be good aged radical fornication, where the dice above all decides who will be on top, who on the bottom and so on. No such thing is planned for the days when I will be there, I learn a little to my repent, but the metropolitan raider appears astonished by my boldness: knocking on Luke Rhinehart’s entrance! Pulling on the tiger’s “hairs-breadths”! That’s really venturing into the dark side of the Force. I answer that to judge by the author’s messages, he seems like a neat aged guy.

Ron looks at me pensively, with a touch of misfortune:” A delightful age-old guy … Sure, why not? Maybe the dice required him to play that character for you. But don’t forget that a dice has six features. He’s picturing you one, you don’t know what’s behind the other five, or when he’ll decide to reveal them …”

The man waiting for me when I arrive in Hudson in upstate New York is wearing the same Stetson as he is in that photograph. He has the same jagged peculiarities, the same faded blue noses and the same slightly sardonic smile. He is towering and has a bit of a slouch; you have been able even find him sinister, but when I hold out my hands, he gives me a big hug, caresses me on both buttocks as if I were his son and interposes me to his wife, Ann, who is just as warm and accepting as he is.

We all pile into their old-time estate car, and as we drive past the orchards and through the timbers, I realise that this landscape reminds me of one of my beloved tales: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. My hosts are enchanted: it is one of their beloveds as well, and George has often taught it to his students.

To his students? He is not a psychiatrist, or a psychoanalyst?

” Psychiatrist? Psychoanalyst ?” George reiterates, as startled 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 work …

George shrugs as if to say, journalists, reporters, you know, there is almost nothing they won’t write.

From Hudson we drive for about an hour; he manages the rotate with an abruptness that distinguishes with his good humour and prepares his wife laugh. It is moving to see how the two adoration one another, and when Ann tells me in passing that they have been married for 50 years, I is certainly not surprised.

They live in an age-old farmhouse with a garden that ascent down to a duck pond. They have three changed sons, 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 listen him speaking a little aloud in his room, which is right beside the guest room where I will be staying.( I invited myself for the weekend, but I get the feeling that if I wanted to settle in for a few weeks or a month, it wouldn’t be a problem .)

Ann suffices us tea, and George and I take our beakers out on to the terrace for the interview. He has swapped his Stetson for a baseball cap, and I ask him to tell me about their own lives. He starts from the beginning.

He was born in 1932 in Albany, only a few miles from where he now lives and where, in all probability, he will die. Semi-rural middle-class, hit hard by the Depression, in spite of which he glances back on a more or less happy childhood and youth. Good at maths, a bit of an egghead and not intrepid in the least, he reached 20 without having felt the slightest imaginative implore. At college he began studying psychology, but received it tedious and instead decided it was better to read novels.

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While working night shift as an apprentice in a hospital on Long Island, he relished Mark Twain, Herman Melville and the great 19 th-century Russian scribes. He started working on a fiction that took place in a mental hospital. The protagonist is a young man who has been interned because he thinks he is Jesus, and among the hospital staff is a doctor worded Luke Rhinehart, who practises dice care. The dice was a quirk the young George picked up in college. He and his friends use it on Saturdays to decide what they were going to do that night. Sometimes, they dared one another to do stuff: hop-skip around the block on one leg, resounding a neighbour’s doorbell , nothing very malicious. When I request, hopefully, whether he propagandized these experiences further as an adult, he shrugs his shoulders and smiles apologetically because he can tell that I would like something a bit spicier.

“No,” he acknowledges.” All I requested the dice was, for example, if I’d got enough of running: do I stay at my table for another hour? Or two hours? Or do I go for a stroll right away ?”

” What are you talking about ?” says Ann, who has come on to the terrace to offer us some blueberry crumble.” Don’t you recollect at least one important decision that the dice determined you make ?”

He roars, so does she, and he tells me that he had noticed an attractive wet-nurse at the hospital, but was reticent and didn’t dare talk to her. The dice fixed him do it: he drove her residence, took her to religiou, but the church was closed, so he invited her to play tennis. Of track, the enticing nurse was Ann.

Ten years later they had three little sons, and George, who had become an English teacher, shall be used for a responsibility at the American school in Mallorca. This expatriation is the big adventure of their own lives. Although Mallorca in the 1960 s was associated with psychedelia and wild living, George didn’t take medications, was loyal to his wife, and principally exactly hung around with other teachers like himself. Still, he didn’t completely escape the zeitgeist. He started to read books on psychoanalysis, antipsychiatry, oriental mysticism, Zen- all aspects of 1960 s counterculture, whose grand meaning was that we are requirement, and that we must free ourselves from this conditioning. Influenced by this learn, he suddenly became aware of the revolutionary potential of something he had thought of as no more than a simple game, and had more or less given up since his adolescence. Although he had also long ago given up on the idea of writing diaries, he got fired up about what would become The Dice Man. He spent four years writing it, patronage reliably by his wife.

George Cockcroft with lads Supremacies( left) and Chris in Mallorca in 1972. Photograph: Courtesy of George Cockcroft

Much to their surprise, an writer paid good money for the book, and the rights were sold to Paramount. Then The Dice Man started to live its erratic, changeable life: success in Europe but not in the US, regular new volumes and, eventually, religion status. There were regrets: for one blur ground or the other the movie was never realized, and none of his other notebooks had the same success. But the rights from The Dice Man allowed them to buy this beautiful mansion, and to age with respect- George writing, Ann painting, both of them caring for their son with schizophrenia.

The day I visited was Mother’s Day, and the two other sons came over to celebrate it with their parents. They are good American kids: Budweiser boozers, trout fishers, wearers of checkered shirts. Later, their friend came out of his room for a little while. All three told Ann she was ” a awful mummy “. After dinner, we finished the night at the house of one of their lads, also in the middle of the countryside. He has an outdoor jacuzzi, in which George and I continues to booze while gaping up at the stars, with the result that I don’t quite remember how I represented it back to my room.

It is strange how much you can project on to a photograph. The one of Luke Rhinehart became me imagine a whole romance: a dangerous, sulphurous life fitted with excess, sins and severs. Bordellos in Mexico, the societies of loonies in the Nevada desert, delirious, mind-expanding knowledge. And this face, the same face with strong bones and noses of steel, is that of an adorable old man who is approaching the end of a sweet, comfy life with his adorable wife, a soul whose exclusively departure from the norm was to have written this alarming book, and who in his old age must gently, gently explain to people who come to see him that you must not confuse it with him, and that he is simply a novelist.

Really? But what did I know about the reality? I retained the warning of Ron, the metropolitan raider. What you assure, the adorable old boy, is just one side of the dice. It is the side that the dice succession him to show you, but at least five others are in reserve.

At breakfast I could see that George was worried he had saddened me. So “hes taking” me kayaking on a pond, and as our kayaks skimmed slowly over the pacify ocean, he told me the stories of some of his followers. What he was content simply to imagine, others did for real. Take the tycoon Richard Branson. He used to say that all of his selections in the enterprises and in life had been made thanks to the dice, be affected by Luke Rhinehart.

Then there was the British gonzo journalist Ben Marshall who, in the 1990 s, made on an allocation in which he would follow Rhinehart’s example for three months: make all of your decisions be taken by the dice and write about what happens. The reporter took the assigning severely fairly, it seems, to trash his love life and his professional life, and to disappear without a retrace for several months.” A funny person, that Ben ,” George tells me.” You can see him in Diceworld, a documentary made by an English TV channel in 1999.”

I had never heard of this documentary and ask if George has a copy we can watch. All of a sudden he ogles flustered. He says it is not huge, and he is not sure he even has it. But I demand, and in no time we are sitting on the living room couch in front of the large-hearted TV and the film starts. It is true, “its not” enormous. But it does show Marshall, who volunteered to gamble his life on the dice and who interprets convincingly how he stopped before he went mad, because the dice can drive you mad.

And lo and beheld, whom do we envision next? His inspiration, our friend George- or rather, our friend Luke, as he was 15 years ago: the Stetson, the scrawny face, the steely gazes, handsome, but not at all like the doting grandfather I know. In a low-pitched, insinuating, hypnotic articulation, he says into the camera:” You lead a dull life, a life of slavery, a life that doesn’t satisfy you, but there’s a way to get out of it. This path is the dice. Let yourself go, refer yourself to it, and you’ll construe, your life will change, you’ll become someone you can’t even imagine .”

Saying this, he looks like a televangelist, the is chairman of a schism filmed just before his followers perpetrate mass suicide. He is frightening. I turn to look at the person beside me on the couch, the delightful pensioner in slippers maintaining his pot of herbal tea. He gives me an perplexed, apologetic smile and was of the view that the Luke in this film is not him. He, George, wasn’t so keen on it, but the chairman insisted.

Ann, who can hear us from the kitchen, chuckles gaily.” You’re watching the cinema where you play the frighten ?”

He laughs, too, beside me on the couch. Nevertheless, when I realise him on the screen, I find him excessively convincing.

I met other adherents of the dice over the internet: one in Salt Lake City, one in Munich, one in Madrid. All husbands. In Madrid, Oscar Cuadrado, who came to meet me at international airports, is young, a bit pudgy, and neat. On the best ways to his sit in his 4×4, he made what was by now a familiar joke:” I may look nice, but you never know what the dice’s got in store for tonight: maybe I’m a serial assassin and you’ll find yourself series to my basement wall .”

He lives in a stylish house in the outskirts, together with his wife and daughter, and without further ado we sat at a lawn table and consulted the dice: do we have a drink right away, or do we wait until we have done the interrogation? Three slopes for a boozing, three against: we could just as well have tossed a copper. The ask: right away. Now, do we suck brew, table wine or the bottle that Cuadrado’s saving for his daughter’s 18 th birthday? Two line-ups for the brew, three for the table wine, and exactly one for the special bottle, because although he would open it willfully – you don’t refuse the dice- still … Eventually, it is over a glass of table wine that he illustrates to me how he uses the dice.

Like everyone, Cuadrado has heard of people who have devastated their lives by setting extreme conditions such as extending halfway around the world and never coming back, having fornication with swine or jabbing someone at random in a army develop terminal in India. Narrative like that circulate on all sites dedicated to the dice- including the one he has been administering for the past 10 times- but they don’t interest him. He recommends using it in a manner which is that makes life more entertaining and surprising.

‘ Photo of me and my wife take place within 1956 a few minutes after I put forward to her ‘: George and Ann. Photograph: Courtesy of George Cockcroft

He has three regulations. The first is to always obey. But obeying the dice is ultimately obeying yourself, since you specified your alternatives. Hence the second rule, concerning the decisive moment when you roster the six possibilities. You have to examine yourself and try to find out what you want. It is a spiritual practice, purported both at getting to know yourself and going a better appreciation of the infinite possibles that actuality offers. The alternatives you select have to be pleasant, but at least one- the third- has to be something you would not normally do. It “re going to have to” stir you overcome resistance and break with habit. When you shed the dice, your desire has to be tinged with fear.

Ever since he discovered the Spanish translation of The Dice Man when he was 17, this sort of big challenge has been second nature to Cuadrado. Like his father, he is a tax lawyer, but thanks to the dice he has also become a wine-colored importer, a webmaster, a Go teacher, a fan of Iceland and the publisher of the Mauritian poet Malcolm de Chazal. How’s that? Well, first he thought it would be good to get to know a foreign country. Six continents, six alternatives. The dice descended on Europe, then, shrinking the choices, on Iceland. Fine. Now, how should he inspect it: on foot, by gondola, hitchhiking, by boat, by motorcycle or on a skateboard? It property on bike. The only trouble: he had never ridden one before. So he learned, toured Iceland by bike, and even went back with the young woman who would become his wife. On this excursion the dice get him to make the proposal, which was accepted.

For their honeymoon, the young couple travelled to Mauritius- a present from his parents-in-law , not the dice. But once there, Cuadrado made up for it. He appeared around for something to read, an columnist with something to do with Mauritius. The dice chose the poet Malcolm de Chazal. Bingo: he came absolutely in love with De Chazal, a creole surrealist whom the master Andre Breton was crazy about. Seeing that De Chazal had not been translated into Spanish, when Cuadrado got back from his honeymoon he founded a publishing fellowship to change that. He knew anything about publishing , no more than he had known about bike travelling. But where reference is gathers the books from his shelf, I can understand why he is proud: they are magnificent. He parts up:” It’s through Luke that I detected Malcolm, and now it’s thanks to him that I’ve met you. Funny, isn’t it ?”


Dear Friend ,

It is our please to inform you that Luke Rhinehart is dead .

Luke didn’t fear demise, though he acknowledged to being a bit apprehensive. Death to him was just another one of life’s unknowns, like traveling to a new ground, starting a new volume, relying a brand-new friend. Luke liked to laugh at death, but then again he liked to laugh at everything. He felt self-confident that fatality wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He promised to report back as soon as he could and tell us know what he had received. He was confident we would all get a good chuckle out of it. Nonetheless, at this extent we still haven’t heard utterance .

Some of you have asked about Luke’s last days. They were no different from days from any week over the past various decades. People who came to see him on the basis of his diaries were sometimes prevented to discover how appended “hes to” his attires. Even where reference is propelled the dice, it was always to do more or less the same things .

” It’s not rolling along in the same old decorations that is bad in itself ,” he said,” but instead if you’re relish the rolled. If you’re cozy in the souls you’re rolled together with, then roll on. Most people aren’t. They don’t like who they are. It’s with them in mind that I wrote all those things about the dice. But I’m fine as I am .”

Luke’s spouse, Ann, was with him to the end .

When I received this email, I was amazed, then lamentable, then moved. Since I had their numbers, I called Ann to express my condolences. When she picked up the phone, she was as cheerful as ever, but she announced a little hastened and told me that she would progress me on to George. I stuttered something about the email I had just received, and she reacted like someone who was used to this sort of little misunderstanding:” Oh, the email! Of route … But don’t worry: it’s not George who died, it’s Luke .”

When he got on the line, George approved:” Yeah, I was going a little tired of Luke. I’m getting older, you know. I still sexual love: envisioning what the weather’s like when I look out the window in the morning, doing the gardening, making love, extending kayaking, but I am less interested in my busines, and my profession was basically Luke. I wrote that letter for Ann to send it to my correspondents when I died. I restrained it in a file for two years, and one day I decided to send it .”

I asked him two more questions. The first: before mail this email, did he propel the dice?

” Oh , no, that didn’t even occur to me ,” said George.” The dice can be useful when you don’t know what you want. But when you are aware, what use is it ?”

Second question: how did his matches make the story?

He applied his spiteful little laugh.” Well, a few thought it was in bad taste. Aside from them, some consider:’ That’s George !’ And others:’ That’s Luke !’

” And you, what do you think ?”

This is an abridged version of” In Search of the Dice Man”, an essay from a brand-new accumulation 97,196 Terms by Emmanuel Carrere, published by Bodley Head on 14 November and available at guardianbookshop.com

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Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ news/ 2019/ nov/ 07/ the-dice-man-elusive-author-luke-rhinehart-george-cockroft-emmanuel-carrere

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