From Publishers Weekly
Ricky Jay knows his dice. A sleight-of-hand-performer who is appearing on Broadway in On the Stem, a one-man show directed by David Mamet (in whose movies Jay has appeared frequently), Jay here presents a light, digressive history of dice, from "astragali" (or "heel bones," as mentioned in an Indian epic poem) to how they are loaded for cheating. Dipping into everything from Viking allegory to the 1820 writings of the Rev. Charles Caleb Colton (an eventual ruined gambler and suicide), Jay's anecdotes are colorful but meandering: a description of a 1501 Florentine gambler named Antonio Rinaldeschi eases into a recollection of the outcry at the Brooklyn Museum over Chris Ofili's dung-festooned Holy Virgin Mary. Chapters such as "Dice and Death" and "The Palengenesis of Craps" are complemented by Rosamond Wolff Purcell's 13 color photographs of beautifully decayed dice (when dice age, they can be chipped and crusted, appearing to be made of salt or ice). These portraits of chance's end reveal visually what Jay tells us verbally: dice are as inherently complex and frail as people.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Jay's writing is exactly what one would expect from the extremely erudite, witty and decent author of Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women and Jay's Journal of Anomalies. There is an explanation of the etymology of "craps, " and there are various tales of armless dicers, ingenious hustlers, and Scandinavian kings of the Middle Ages who diced for islands. Dice turn out to be rich subjects for Purcell's photography. She presents them as, in a way, monumental ruins on a Stonehenge-type of scale relative to the book. Their forms are enriched by their disintegration and are bathed in light that their varying translucence seems to contain for a moment before releasing it to the lens ... The book itself is, like a die, a modest object, small for a book of photography and, with a short text, casually organized."