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on October 27, 2015
I began buying <b>Stephen King</b> hardcovers from discount displays as a teen. “<b>Danse Macabre</b>” is a serious essay study about horror, from the 1950s to its publication in 1981. It is the first book to give me invaluable author’s education. Understand how thorough, organized, and insightful this work is when I say: I am not a horror fan! I must have begun collecting <b>Stephen</b> because some other novel was ghostly. I give 4 stars because lengthy segments meant reading the whole over 6 months. My 400-page hardcover translates to 800; daunting but this is excellent work.

The very pleasant host rightfully presumes to address horror fans but I didn’t mind being in the minority. I loved the external vantage point and believe my journey was exceptional for it. With knowledge of only a few of the most infamous horror shows, films, and books; I was an utterly blank slate as a pupil. Having no impressions of the titles we analyzed, put me in a rare position of fully gleaning the meaning of <b>Stephen’s</b> examples. I wasn’t reminiscing but learning: there’s a difference between horror and terror, how we scare from culture to culture and decade to decade. Why the entertainment mediums of radio, television and theatre excelled in some eras over others.

Even though horror isn’t for me, I would like <b>Stephen</b> to know I feel enriched by his explanations of what the appeal is. Fans admit many aspects are cheesy and unlikely but they sift for gems: a moment that is undeniably scary, superb presentation in words or technical artistry, and genuine platforms illuminating our societal positions. There is nothing trite about the implications of horror’s subject matter and our reactions to it. This education about fear and suspense is essential to any author. I felt absolutely enlightened throughout.
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on July 16, 2014
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.
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on January 31, 2014
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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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. He does manage to tell about a few gems, in his opinion, and he recommends such as Outer Limits and Dark Shadows. The book was written over quite a period of time which shows as when he first starts the book he mentions his own books: . Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining (and the corresponding movies), further on Night Shift and The Stand and towards book's end The Dead Zone is mentioned once. He had also of course published Firestarter by the time this book was on the shelves.

Since his opinions and views of television are so outdated from now, where horror is a staple on the tube with King even being behind some ventures himself (Kingdom Hospital), I would sincerely love a follow-up to this book. Two ideas I have Uncle Steve, if you are listening: 1) continue with another book following the same theme horror movies, TV, books from the 80s to the 2010's. or 2) A new book just on horror and TV where King can expound on the very short chapter he included in this book and then go on to talk about what happened with horror on TV after the sitcom driven slump of the 80s up to the present. Why was Buffy a big hit in the 90s? Why is Walking Dead so hot today? Great book for the history of the genre but really worthy of a modern follow-up since there is so much more to say when his opinions are rooted in the eighties.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon February 19, 2013
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.
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on July 13, 2004
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 ..." or "I normally hate definitions of fantasy, but here's mine...." If you think it's boring and dull, why are you boring us with it?
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.
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on June 28, 2004
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.
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on June 23, 2004
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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on March 22, 2004
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?
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on September 26, 2003
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. 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.
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