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Stephen King's Danse Macabre [Hardcover]

Stephen King
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1983
Ranging across the whole spectrum of horror in popular culture and going back to the seminal classics of Count Dracula and Frankenstein, King describes his ideas on how horror works and how he brings it to bear in his own novels.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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In the fall of 1978 (between The Stand and The Dead Zone), Stephen King taught a course at the University of Maine on "Themes in Supernatural Literature." As he writes in the foreword to this book, he was nervous at the prospect of "spending a lot of time in front of a lot of people talking about a subject in which I had previously only felt my way instinctively, like a blind man." The course apparently went well, and as with most teaching experiences, it was as instructive, if not more so, to the teacher as it was to the students. Thanks to a suggestion from his former editor at Doubleday, King decided to write Danse Macabre as a personal record of the thoughts about horror that he developed and refined as a result of that course.

The outcome is an utterly charming book that reads as if King were sitting right there with you, shooting the breeze. He starts on October 4, 1957, when he was 10 years old, watching a Saturday matinee of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Just as the saucers were mounting their attack on "Our Nation's Capital," the movie was suddenly turned off. The manager of the theater walked out onto the stage and announced, "The Russians have put a space satellite into orbit around the earth. They call it ... Spootnik."

That's how the whole book goes: one simple, yet surprisingly pertinent, anecdote or observation after another. King covers the gamut of horror as he'd experienced it at that point in 1978 (a period of about 30 years): folk tales, literature, radio, good movies, junk movies, and the "glass teat". It's colorful, funny, and nostalgic--and also strikingly intelligent. --Fiona Webster --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The indisputable king of horror TIME One of the few horror writers who can truly make the flesh creep SUNDAY EXPRESS --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
FOR ME, the terrorthe real terror, as opposed to whatever demons and boogeys which might have been living in my own mindbegan on an afternoon in October of 1957. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars No Problem Jan. 31 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Aside from a mark on the bottom of the book it was in mint condition. No creases on the spine or covers. No tears on the pages.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Recommendations But Dated Opinions Dec 14 2013
By Nicola Manning-Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm re-reading Stephen King's books in chronological order and this was the next book in line. I can now tell exactly how old I was when I originally read his books because this was the first one I bought (well was gifted) brand new from the bookstore. Every July (my bday) and Christmas my dad would give me any new Stephen King books that had come out as presents; so I was 13 when I got this one. I was really looking forward to this, King's first foray into non-fiction, as my first read of it had been soooo enlightening. I wanted to get my hands on every book he mentioned, watch every movie he named but it being pre-internet days that was a very hard task indeed. Now that I re-read the book thirty years later I find that I've watched a great many of the mentioned movies and the major books listed but not all of them so I still had some titles and authors to add to my tbr.

It's a great book and so interesting to read. Parts of the book are biographical telling about young Steve's life as a kid when he connected with this world of the macabre, but mostly it is his treatise on the horror story genre and what it includes both the good and the bad. The movie section was enjoyable but my favourite part was the longest section: on books, of course. Steve has a great writing voice and it's like taking to someone about a topic you both love over a couple of beers. The only part that was disappointing was the section on TV. The book shows its age here, written in 1981, King is writing from an era of Mork & Mindy, The Dukes of Hazzard and Fantasy Island to name a few. King has no use for television whatsoever, feeling that all who lower themselves to its level, actors, directors, writers are entering an abyss of no return.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What Scares Stephen King? Feb. 19 2013
By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER
This book, written using the author's notes from a college course he taught, explores the techniques that horror writers, filmmakers, and television producers use to scare us, entertain us, and keep us coming back for more. Along the way, King explores the horror genre from the 1950's through the 1980's and traces several key influences on his development as a horror fan, then author.

The author finds the roots of modern horror in three "tarot cards" or character archetypes, each represented by a key literary work. Our expectations about "The Vampire" were formed by Bram Stoker's Dracula; we see the essence of "The Werewolf" in the protagonist of Robert Lewis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; and experience "The Thing Without a Name" as recurring versions of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein. He traces the influence of these themes in written fiction, radio, movies, television and in popular culture.

Most interesting is King's three-level taxonomy of fear reactions. The most refined is "terror" as the suspenseful anticipation of fright which can be induced by a skilful writer with the monsters off-stage. He believes that finely-tuned terror is best achieved through books and radio because they require more active engagement by their audiences. "Horror" is secondary, as we recoil from the hidden monster as it is revealed. "Revulsion" is the lowest, most visceral reaction triggered when we are "grossed out" by slime, gore and vomit. King admits that as an author he makes unrestrained use of all three.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best book on Horror EVER! June 28 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
For any serious fan of horror, Stephen King's Danse Macabre is an invaluable book, right up there with Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature. To use a rough analogy, it is as if Hitchcock wrote a book on suspense (actually, Truffaut's interviews with him amount to just that). Some of the negative reviews I've read on this site claim that King is too digressive. Well, it is digressive - the paperback clocks in at just over 400 pages - but Stephen King is not an academic, and he does not write like one. For me, that made this scholarly work all the more readable and enjoyable. (I am a King fan, so my opinion is biased).
The stated goal of the book is cover Horror from 1950 to 1980. However, he cannot do this without turning to the horror "heavy-hitters" of literature - Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. According to King, these books define the three archetypes (he calls them "Tarot Cards") of horror - the Vampire, the Thing with No Name, and the Werewolf, respectively. (There is a fourth card for the Ghost or the Bad Place, but that can't be narrowed down to one book.)
He discusses movies, books, and television. What is refreshing is how critical King is - even about his own novels. He has bad things to say about a lot of popular works - he will annoy fans of The Exorcist, The Twilight Zone, and other popular books. But, as any lover of horror movies must admit, King opens up about his love of bad movies and even finds nice things to say about the movies, The Amityville Horror and The Prophecy. (I am also shocked about how many nice things he has to say about Stanley Kubrick and The Shining - a film he supposedly doesn't like.)
Fortunately, I had read most of the books and seen most of the movies that King discusses.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Get to the point
Mr. King introduces several chapters in this book with apologies, along the lines of, "I hate to do this to you, but now I'm going to explain ... Read more
Published on July 13 2004 by Brian
4.0 out of 5 stars Like chatting with Mr. King
I bought Danse Macabre when I was still in high school and read it so many times that it fell apart. Read more
Published on June 23 2004 by Kimberley Wilson
2.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King, Stick To Fiction
When I opened this book, I thought I was going to read the insights of a master of fright fiction, what I found were rambling anecdotes and recollections.
Mr. Read more
Published on March 22 2004 by Caesar M. Warrington
5.0 out of 5 stars A lot of fun!
And pictures, too! Good ones! King is one of those writers who
has never known when to shut up, but I'll make an exception in the case of this book. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2003 by R. Wallace
5.0 out of 5 stars A Constant Companion For This Lover Of All Things Horror
I have probably read "Danse Macabre" more times than I have any other book. Most rereads occur when there is nothing else to do, since the book seems to always just be... Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2002 by Michael Allen
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost too much
For anyone pretending to be a writer, even those with just a passing interest in the horror genre, this book is priceless in its own unique way. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2002 by William A. Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars The Master of Horror submits his Dissertation (1981)
In a perfect world Stephen King would revise "Danse Macabre" and offer us an updated edition of his look at the world of horror in literature and films. Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2001 by Lawrance M. Bernabo
5.0 out of 5 stars Important, and fun
When it comes to serious studies in horror by actual authors (which are usually much more useful than those by academics, although those are generally good for a laugh), there's... Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2001 by Dan Seitz
4.0 out of 5 stars Rambling yet user friendly
Back in 1981, when Stephen King was still a horror writer, he wrote this interesting yet lesser known book. Read more
Published on July 2 2001 by Noctem
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