2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best book on Horror EVER!
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...
Published on June 28 2004 by JR Pinto
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry, but I don't danse.
The first time I started into this book I got halfway through and then chucked it in the bin. A year later I bought it again, promised myself I would put up with it, and finished it. Why did it take me so long? Because it's such a fiendishly intristic commentary on the horror genre as a whole, offering new insights into classics like "Dracula" and...
Published on Oct. 30 1999
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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!,
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. He also provides invaluable appendices for further reading and viewing. What is of tremendous interest is King's analysis of his contemporary writers, who have been so gracious as to discuss their own works with him. Here we find the best commentary ANYWHERE on Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Richard Matheson. King also tackles the questions of why we read horror and if it has a deleterious effect on society.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR ANY HORROR/FANTASY/SCI-FI GEEK!!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Invaluable Resource,
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 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!
4.0 out of 5 stars What Scares Stephen King?,
This review is from: Stephen King's Danse Macabre (Hardcover)
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.
This book is recommended for horror fans, Stephen King fans, and all those who work to improve their writing. Readers can learn more about the author's writing style and process in his subsequent nonfiction works On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Crafts of Writing.
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. 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.
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. King, for some reason, could not maintain a focus. He would begin a chapter on a certain subject or aspect of the horror/science fiction genre and by the next paragraph start remembering something from his childhood somewhat semi-related to the topic being discussed. He would digress to the point where he would even admit to it, apologize and promise to return to the original subject in a later chapter. The next chapter he would do the samething again! What was going through King's mind when he writing this book --other than constant reminiscences about his childhood in the Fifties/Sixties?
One other annoyance about this book was King's occasional oblique comments on the way his own work was adapted for the screen. For example, he teases the reader with a comment about his dislike for the movie version of "The Shining", yet he never goes into any further explanation on the subject. The reader is left hanging.
Where was the editor?
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 lying around...anyway, that's of no help to you, the prospective buyer Since you are even reading this review, you're probably in the frame of mind necessary to appreciate "Danse Macabre". The book is written in an extremely casual style, full of many asides and non-sequiturs, which only makes it more engaging and extremely entertaining. The one minor squabble I have with King over the book is that he has not updated it yet (in mass-market paperback, anyway), even though it was written over twenty years ago. It would be very cool to see him continue to modify and reprint it, as Walt Whitman did with "Leaves Of Grass". That's really splitting hairs, though; it's a fantastic read and a great reference guide, not to mention the best view into Stephen King's psyche that you will probably ever find. Just buy the book and be happy.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Master of Horror submits his Dissertation (1981),
This review is from: Stephen King's Danse Macabre (Paperback)
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. After all, it has been two decades since "Danse Macabre" was first published and horror is bigger business than ever. Since then King has published several dozen books, including his magnum opus "It," while several notable authors in the field, such as Clive Barker and Laurell K. Hamilton, have emerged. Certainly it would be fascinating to see where King places Pinhead and Anita Blake in the rich tapestry of horror.
King professes that this analysis of horror is "a moving, rhythmic search" for "The place where we live at our most primitive level." But "Danse Macabre" is not just an academic colloquium because there are large measures of autobiography and criticism thrown into the mix as well. For King everything is fair game and he is as likely to talk about "Tourist Trap," a personal favorite film that the rest of us have never heard about, as he is "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby." This is a book where you can pick it up and start reading at any point and find it interesting. After all, this has clearly been the man's life.
I have been reading through "Danse Macabre" again, looking for ideas for a reading list for a class on Modern Fantasy in which Horror literature is a large component. However, in addition to commenting on or at least mentioning dozens of horror novels and short stories, King also sets up a basic schema for considering such works. In his chapters on "Tales of the Hook" and "Tales of the Tarot," he lays out what are basically genres, focusing on archetypes that are revealed by "Frankenstein," "Dracula" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (although I think he could have overlooked the liabilities of "The Turn of the Screw" or found a better alternative so he could include the ghost story in his tarot). Consequently, if it were more up to date I would seriously consider having this as the "textbook" for a class on horror. Certainly King will provoke students of horror into some sort of a response, and if you were to use the book as it now stands you might even be able to get the cherubs to extend King's analysis or fill in the gaps given the past twenty years of horror in film, literature and television.
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. Inspired by a series of lectures he gave at the University of Maine, Danse Macabre pretty much covers the impact horror had on King between 1950 and 1980. From radio to TV, from Lovecraft to Straub, King's analysis is written in his straight foward manner. He refers to the medium of radio with great fondness, he bashes TV for destroying creativity, and he is at his most passionate when he talks about the written word. The book also contains a surprising autobiographical edge that takes this work away from being a true essay. King attempts to give us an insight into the man that would eventually become the worlds most successful writer. Although much of what is written here remains relevant today, one can't help but feel this book needed to be written by a much older and wiser Stephen King of today: the plunging quality of horror fiction these past twenty years, the numerous failed film adaptions of his books.....I must admit, there is alot in this book I simply disagree with, but one can't help but admire King's masterful understanding of horror, and he never tires of defending it. In then end, Danse Macabre is a must for any true fan of the genre and your collection isn't complete without it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Guide To Horror Fiction From a Single Author,
I have read many books of criticism and opinion on the subject of horror fiction. However, no single author has been able to cover the field of modern horror better than Stephen King. In Danse Macabre King makes the field of horror accessible to the general reader. There are books which explain the Freudian overtones of Dracula or the anti-establishment message of Night of the Living Dead which is, for all practical purposes, useless. English and Cinema majors may find it useful, but the general reader has no time or concern for these trifles. King, while at times veering off topic, gives the reader a road map for the field of horror. He introduces and discusses writers which the general reader of fiction may never have heard of, like James Herbert and Harlan Ellison. And never does the book become boring. King's love for the genre shows in this work. It is like attending an Einstein lecture on Physics; it may get a bit complicated at times, but you know that old Al will bring an energy and enthusiasm to the subject which no one else could ever hope to copy.
Other Books Recommended: Stephen Jones and Kim Newman's Horror 100 Best Books (Unusual, Unorthodox, Unbelievable, The Single best book on horror by one than more author)
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