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Stephen King's Danse Macabre [Hardcover]

Stephen King
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 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.

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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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Customer Reviews

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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Invaluable Resource Oct. 21 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This in depth exploration into the psyche of Stephen King is essential reading for any aspiring writer. Memories of childhood, of inspirations to write, and even some method to the madness fill this book; making it feel like a cross the table conversation. Discussing influential books and authors, films and directors, and pertinent world events, King implores his fans to pay attention to the world around them, citing that as the writer's best source of material. Friendly advice from the world's best selling author for the price of a paperback! You can't beat that! If you don't own this book immediately purchase a copy.
Also included are two appendixes, one for films and one for books that make great to watch/ to read lists. Many of the books and films suggested are out of print or have moratorium status, which will prompt a treasure hunt for avid fans. The only fault with this book is that Mr. King hasn't updated it or written a sequel since the book is almost twenty years old! An inspiring and informative book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important, and fun Sept. 12 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 Lovecraft's "Supernatural Literature" and this.
In terms of sheer fun, this book is a goldmine and very well thought out. You can read a chapter separately, or read the whole thing at one shot, but you keep going back to it and rereading it.
Especially useful to film fans and scholars is King's analysis and dissection of the horror movie. I'm recommending this to a friend of mine in the hopes that he will loosen up a bit after reading King's sometimes-hilarious take on the truly awful horror movies out there.
"Danse Macabre" is both a lot of fun and a great study of an often misunderstood genre. Take a look!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Like chatting with Mr. King June 23 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I bought Danse Macabre when I was still in high school and read it so many times that it fell apart. This book is a sweeping peep into Stephen King's (circa the early 80s) head and the experience is very much like what you would expect to feel if you could've sat down on the couch with him and a couple of beers.
The book jumps back between the 50s and 80s all the way through. One minute you'll be reading about Dracula the next you'll read about young Steve's experiment with a dead cat. There is a lot of horror ground covered in this book, perhaps too much. King goes from a brilliant discussion of the 3 great granddaddies of horror: Dracula, Frankenstien, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the best and worst of horror movies to horror on TV (Interestingly enough King didn't seem to grasp how great, Thriller, Outer Limits and Twilight Zone were) and then sort of splatters along with observations on modern horror novels, a few writers that King admired and throws in a couple of other oddities as well.
The book is very self indulgent. It appears to not have been edited and you have to remember that King was still a young man when he wrote it. If some of his views seem terribly shallow it's the youth talking and I find myself wishing that King would update the book. The big flaw of the book is King's really, really annoying Vietnam tangents. They are all over the book and go on for several paragraphs and don't have a thing to do with the book's stated subject.
Danse Macabre isn't perfect but about 75% of it is extremely entertaining. If you skip over the boring parts, the obsessive parts and don't mind the sloppy last chapter and if you really love the horror genre then it is book worth putting on your "keeper" list.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a great book for horror fans
Stephen King talks about horror and horror films. How could you not want to know his thoughts and feelings. It's a great book for horror fans.
Published 1 month ago by Jazz Virk
5.0 out of 5 stars No Problem
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.
Published 7 months ago by Jason Mercier
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Recommendations But Dated Opinions
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... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Nicola Mansfield
4.0 out of 5 stars What Scares Stephen King?
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,... Read more
Published 18 months ago by John M. Ford
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
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. 26 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
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