Live and love by the roll of a die

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Live and Love By the Roll of a Die

Luke Rhinehart's novel "The Diceman" has kept a growing cult following since 1971, but what is it that makes the book so successful?

The 1971 cult classic The Diceman is a novel written by George Cockcroft under the pen name Luke Rhinehart. The book follows the story of a psychiatrist who is tired of his life. He is bored, unfulfilled and looking for a change, so he begins to make all of his life's decisions by rolling a die. 

The original tag line of the novel read, "Few novels can change your life. This one will." The book carries a lot of sentiments that are considered subversive, and it also reflects the overall mood of the 1970s, including its anti-psychiatry feelings. In fact, the original manuscript was banned in many countries because it explicitly referenced rape, murder, sexual experimentation and other issues that were considered controversial.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the book's controversial nature, it has stuck around and remained quite popular throughout the past several decades since its initial publication. The book has also gone through several republishing’s, and even gained a newer, bolder tag line in the United States: "This book will change your life."

How "The Diceman" Came To Be

The idea for Cockcroft's novel came from his own life. At the time of his writing, Cockcroft was teaching psychology and leading seminars on Nietzsche and Sartre.  He described himself as a shy, uptight, overachiever and decided that he wanted to change that aspect of his personality. To add more diversity and potential risk to his everyday choices, he decided to start rolling a die and letting the rolls dictate his choices.

When he realized that this idea of living your life according to the principles of chance was something that provoked a very visceral reaction – some were appalled; some were thrilled – in his students, he knew he had to write about it. His protagonist, psychologist Luke Rhinehart, lets the die dictate his entire life, even up until the moment of his death.

How "The Diceman" Has Thrived For So Long

Rolling the dice became a way of life for the jaded Rhinehart, and the novel describes deviant, hedonistic "dice parties" as well as a cult that spring up around the protagonist and his body of psychological research. This cult following has since spilled over into real life. It has inspired songs, screenplays, soap operas and two plays, "The Dice House" and "The Six Sided Man," as well as three more books by Cockcroft and generations of followers.

The appeal of the book is its impulsivity and spontaneity, coupled with a feeling of rebellion. It's exciting and it allows those who "live by the die" to absolve themselves of the responsibility that often comes with careful consideration of life's choices. It remains popular because it gives readers a safe outlet for fulfilling desires that may be seen as unseemly or too daring. By taking away responsibility, it imparts a feeling of total freedom and of living a "truer life" into the people who decide to try out the lifestyle.