November 15, 2012
I learned LUKE RHINEHART’s (born 1932) real name when I spotted it on the copyright page of his novel The Dice Man, which has become a cult classic in part because of the narrative element of “dicing” — the surrendering of one’s decision-making to the casting of a die. “© 1971,” the copyright page said, “George Cockroft.” The Dice Man is the autobiography of a fictional character called Luke Rhinehart and that’s why his name’s on the cover… but it’s also on the cover of the sequel, whose main character is Luke’s son, Larry. So who’s writing the second book? Luke, Larry, or George? All of them? None of them? This kind of monkey business is what the Dice canon is all about: They fluctuate between first-, second-, and third-person narrative, and also incorporate epistolary items like newspaper reports. Probably my favourite of Rhinehart’s books is Adventures of Wim (1986, later republished as Whim), in which a Native American boy experiments with meditation, Sanskrit, drugs, and fasting. In meditation, he can’t get past the humble mental image of a potato; however, using his love as fertiliser, he grows a pot plant so huge it interferes with the flight paths of airplanes. There are online communities of Dice Man fans who allegedly live by the dice — which seems silly. However, if November 15 can henceforth be Luke Rhinehart Day, let us honor him by embracing the joy of whim.
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).