Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart

I've finally moved back to university, and although classes don't start for another couple of weeks I'm back in the library. There's both my dissertation and my novel to write, and I want to get on with them before I'm thrown into reading for my other two modules. This year I'll be studying Gender and Sexualities and American Literature in the Twentieth Century. I'm very excited about both and my reading list for the two looks especially awesome.

Post-New Year, I did a lot of book shopping, which for me is an excuse to read more. I finished off The Lord of the Rings trilogy finally and decided to pick up a Young Adult book that's been gathering dust on my shelf for quite a while called The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. It was an extremely interesting book, and some parts I thought were especially excellent. It's quite whimsical and so if you're into that sort of thing then pick it up. For me, it was just okay overall. I've read a few others including A Streetcar Named Desire for university and a reread of Less Than Zero which I'll be featuring on the blog very soon, but for now I'll be talking about one of the most double-edged books I've probably ever read in my life.

The concept of Luke Rhinehart's The Dice Man is simple, at first - he decides that he will base all life decisions on the role of a die and nothing else. Whichever option the die chooses, he has to do it. To question the decision is to question the nature of the dice. It starts out personal, but soon the die begins to tell him to share his philosophy to the rest of the world, and he does so. As a psychologist, he teaches his patients to live by the rules of the dice and soon he has built up a following of 'Dice People' who swear by the dice on a daily basis. His logic is that the dice unlock an unlimited number of personalities you otherwise wouldn't be aware of. It frees you, in a sense, from a monogamy of the self. You become multiple selves each day, and the die picks them for you.

If that already intrigues you then I definitely recommend picking this novel up. The degree of psychology, philosophy and ethics in here is astounding, and whilst the majority of Rhinehart's theories and actions were highly problematic, they were so interesting to read about. I bought this book on my uncle's recommendation without knowing much about it, but then when my lecturer talked about it in a lecture on existential literature, I convinced myself to read it. The point being that I entered it with both a fiction and academic interest, and this side of it, for me, was definitely the highlight. Never have I read something so profound, weird, problematic and yet entirely fascinating all in one book.

Yet there were parts of this novel I simply didn't get on with. One element was the characters. I wouldn't say they were particularly unlikable, more that I just didn't find them interesting. Rhinehart was the only person I really wanted to read about, and the rest I didn't care for. Don't get me wrong, they bought things to the story and some were good antagonists to Rhinehart's domination, but they just didn't capture my attention the same way the main character did. Secondly, sometimes this novel got really boring to the point where I wondered if it should finish it, only to get to the next chapter and be so hooked that I stay up reading into the night. This novel is filled with explicit sex scenes which just really didn't interest me, and when they went on for pages and pages I couldn't wait for them to be over. It was like extreme-highs and extreme-lows which I didn't really know how to react too, hence a really confused kind of goodreads review that you can read on my profile.

Yet, as I said, sometimes I was hooked. The writing was extremely clever at some places, such as his switches from first to third person and back again. He quotes passages from fictional books which he later went on to write, which is interesting. What I think is the most interesting is that Luke Rhinehart doesn't actually exist as an author or psychologist, but is a character. For a while I didn't know if he was a real person and I genuinely had a sick moment where I thought all of this was a true story. You should find out more about the real author and the world he has created - the metafiction is incredibly done.

I think this is a book for people who are really interested in it. Part of me thinks this was an amazing creation and another part thinks it's just disgusting. A book has never divided me so much, which is maybe what the author was attempting to do. I honestly feel like I should roll a die in order to make up my mind what to think to it. But it's definitely worth the read for those who think they can persevere.

And so, the existentialist journey continues as we enter the first month of my Existential Book Club! I'm currently reading At The Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell which is a brilliant introduction to the lives and theories of the existentialist, especially Sartre, de Beauvoir and Heidegger. On the side I'm reading The Loney which I don't know if I'm enjoying, and after that plan to get started on my reading which means picking up The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway. That's going to be interesting - Hemmingway is such an annoying guy who writes such good books.

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