Luke Rhinehart completed The Dice Man when he was living in Deia in 1970. Luke was kind enough to answer David Holzer’s questions about his time in the village, The Dice Man, and Naked Before the World; A Lovely Pornographic Love Story set in a Deia thinly disguised as “Maya”.
When I discovered The Dice Man (1971) had a Deia connection, I was fascinated but not surprised. For me, Deia has always been somewhere embracing chance appears perfectly natural.
By the time he arrived in Deia, Luke Rhinehart, real name George Cockroft, was a psychology lecturer who had been thinking about using dice to break the force of habit – his own – for some time. His aim, he says, was to “decondition pre-existing social programming”.
One summer in the mid-60s, George was leading a seminar on freedom and floated the idea of casting dice to make all your decisions. George’s students were either horrified or fascinated. Knowing he was on to something, George began writing The Dice Man.
The Dice Man (1971) is about a psychiatrist who decides to make all his decisions by rolling a die. For every decision he has to make there are, of course, six options.
Rebellious young men, and I was one, find what George calls “Diceliving” especially seductive. I have at least one friend who’s experimented with Diceliving. With disastrous results, it has to be said, involving a traumatised giant fish, an angry nun and armed police.
Since The Dice Man, writing as Luke Rhinehart, George has published eight books including Naked Before the World: A Lovely Pornographic Love Story (2008), a satire set among the hippies in Deia in the late 1960s. We’ll get to this later. But, first, the interview.
How did you come to Deia, George?
We arrived in Deia in June of 1969. I was at the time an Associate Professor of English at Dowling College, teaching literature courses and creative writing. I was the Associate Director of the Mediterranean Institute, a study abroad programme created by my friend and colleague Bob De Maria, who has since bought a home in Deia and visited Deia most of the last 40 or so summers.
What were your first impressions of the village?
My wife and I had lived for most of a year outside Mexico City in 1964-65, but weren’t prepared for the beauty of the northwest coast of Mallorca and Deia. We rented an apartment, Casa de Munt, outside the village on the road to Soller, which had a marvellous view of the sea and loved it.
What about the people?
We were lucky enough that summer to meet Bud Flackoll, Claribel Alegria and their two wonderful daughters, Maya and Karen. We also met the artist Marc Heine, his delightful Mallorcan wife Francesca and their young son. Francesca was an incredibly warm person and invited us to spend a few days on the island of Cabrera, where her family was one of only a few who had the right to visit the island.
And the poet-novelist Jay Linthicum. These friends and the native villagers made us feel quite at home in an amazingly short time.
Do you have any memories of Robert Graves that you could share?
The most vivid memory we have is of my wife walking towards Robert Graves someplace in the village and Robert throwing a flower at her that fell at her feet.
How do you remember Deia?
Deia was special for us because of the friends we had back then and because in the spring of 1970 I finished my first and most successful novel The Dice Man there.
What we loved about living in Deia in 1969-1970 and 1972-73 was its peacefulness and simplicity. Mallorcans far outnumbered the foreigners and there were few cars. When we went to a bar or restaurant we expected to know many of the foreigners who we might find there since there were so relatively few. It was the only time in our lives that we lived in a real community of local friends.
Do you have any idea why The Dice Man became the phenomenon it is?
By the mid 1990s The Dice Man had become an almost unknown book, still in print in only three or four countries. Then, beginning near the end of that decade and accelerating in the 21st century, the book was amazingly rediscovered. It had been published in only seven countries back in the 1970s but suddenly all but one of those countries republished and the book was published for the first time in twenty new languages and countries.
In 2010, The Dice Man was selling more copies than at any time ever. And today it is still in print in more than twenty countries, each year several European publishers renewing their licenses to publish.
At first I had no explanation for this resurrection. Then, five years after the explosion began, it occurred to me: The Dice Man is a cult book and its success depends on word of mouth. Before the rise of the Internet, word of mouth meant literally word of mouth. But with the explosion of people using the web beginning in the late nineties, fans of the book were able to communicate to twenty times as many friends about books they like, and The Dice Man took off.
Last question: do you think being in Deia had any influence on The Dice Man?
When I arrived in Deia I’d written only 220 manuscript pages over four years. In that spring I wrote more than 500 pages in about five months to finish the book. So, essentially, most of the book was written in Deia. Make of that what you will
Thank you, George.
And now, Naked Before the World
Naked Before the World is described by Amazon as “a comic romp celebrating the follies of both hippies and the establishment. The novel follows the innocent Katya as she begins her first year abroad studying art at the Lowdong Institute on the island of Mallorca [in a] mountain village populated by artists and freaks and frauds and Katya finds it hard to tell which is which.”
In the novel, Deia is “Maya”, Sanskrit for “illusion”, which seems thoroughly appropriate.
Because of the subject matter – an innocent hippy chick abroad – Naked… reminds me inevitably of Mason Hoffenberg and Terry Southern’s Candy. (Mason Hoffenberg also lived in Deia, by the way.) I wonder if Luke and Jay Linthicum, who originally collaborated on Naked… had Candy in mind when they came up with the idea for the book. For Luke, the subject matter was “just the spirit of the times”.
Apart from being thoroughly entertaining, the great pleasure of Naked…is the sense it gives of Deia Daze. So, if, like me, you’re intrigued by those times, buy a copy.
You must read the full incredible story of Luke, The Dice Man and Deia: THE DICE MAN, DEIA, AND CHANCE,v5
David Holzer is a freelance writer who has been coming to Deia for almost 20 years. Apart from loving the village, he is fascinated by the – without being too pretentious – cultural history and significance of Deia.