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, 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...
Published 2 months ago by John M. Ford
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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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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best book on Horror EVER!,
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 Important, and fun,
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!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Invaluable Resource,
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.
2.0 out of 5 stars Get to the point,
There are some good nuggets of insight here, as you would expect from someone who's generally regarded as a talented writer of popular fiction. On the other hand, it's all pretty disorganized and rambling (as others have pointed out), with an odd and undue emphasis on fantasy/sci-fi movies and books.
4.0 out of 5 stars Like chatting with Mr. King,
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,
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 lot of fun!,
has never known when to shut up, but I'll make an exception in the case of this book. It's not only a history of horror/SF--movies, stories and novels--it's also an explanation of what
horror is--order under attack by chaos (King uses a lot of fancy words to describe it, but that's what it really is about). He includes a list of what he considers the best horror films and
novels of all times. Some I had never even heard about, but I
found King was exactly right when I looked them up. Who's ever
heard of Hal Halbrook in a little-known film called "Rituals"? I
hadn't, until I read this book. If you like horror/SF, then
you should definitely read this book. You'll like it, I promise.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Constant Companion For This Lover Of All Things Horror,
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost too much,
This review is from: Stephen Kings Danse Macabre (Paperback)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.
But reading this book in 2002, considering I was three years old when this book was written, I couldn't recognize or remember most of the movies and almost all of the television and radio shows.
Still, this book is wonderful for anyone who wants to open the mind of a writer and simply sit back and watch it work. It's as if I was stuck on a cross-country Greyhound with a window seat next to King, years before he swore off alcohol and cocaine.
It drags terribly at times. But it's all worth it.
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Danse Macabre(MP3)(Unabr.) by Stephen King (MP3 CD - Feb 23 2010)
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