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Danse Macabre

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  16,753 ratings  ·  390 reviews
From the author of dozens of #1 New York Times bestsellers and the creator of many unforgettable movies comes a vivid, intelligent, and nostalgic journey through three decades of horror as experienced through the eyes of the most popular writer in the genre. In 1981, years before he sat down to tackle On Writing, Stephen King decided to address the topic of what makes horr ...more
ebook, 464 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Pocket Books (first published January 1st 1981)
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This is what my copy looks like after finishing:

There was so much inside that head that I just wanted to remember, or come back to, or... just highlight. I could have done all of that on my nook, and it would have been easier. Simpler, less restricted as to what I could fit onto the post-it, but... I dunno. This way just felt right to me.

There were a lot of references to books that I hadn't read yet, and these sections I tried to skim so that I could get the idea without the spoilers, but that
Oct 19, 2007 Gabriel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who is curious about the horror genre
When I first picked this up, I had seen the Johnny Depp adaptation of "Secret Window[, Secret Garden]" (the movie cut out the last half of the title) and, though the movie was far from excellent, I realized that there was more to the horror genre and to Stephen King in particular than I had previously thought. This book showed me the light.

Since reading this treatise on the genre, I have started actively seeking out more horror fiction than any other type of fiction and write almost exclusively
This is my favorite Stephen King book--I've read it considerably more times than any of his other works. I don't think it's any secret what makes this book so enjoyable--it's really what makes all of his books work--his storytelling power. He has such a friendly, compelling narrative voice--it's like he's casually sharing secrets with you, and you can't wait to hear what he has to say next.

It might help to enjoy DANSE MACABRE if you are a horror fiction/film fanatic, but then again, it might ju
Alan Scott
Dec 28, 2008 Alan Scott rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: horror fanatics
This book is truly nothing more than Stephen King riffing sloppily (as hell) about the "horror genre." There is no pretense of scholarship, and it has a folky tone which makes it quite easy to imagine what it must have been like back in the day when King got a twelve pack of beer in him, had smoked a joint, and done enough lines of coke to get him on a never ending jag about "the deal" with the genre: to put it bluntly, its about as tight as "the blob," it's rambling, and it's also somewhat amus ...more
"This book is only my ramble through that world, through all the worlds of fantasy and horror that have delighted and terrified me….It’s a dance. And sometimes they turn off the lights in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the dark. Especially in the dark. May I have the pleasure?" ~Stephen King
I first read Danse Macabre when I was seventeen, and while I gobbled it up, there was a lot that just went right over my head unappreciated at the time. Even though I was well on m
Sherry (sethurner)
I was in a bookstore in Bangor, Maine looking at all the foreign editions of this book when a teenager mumbled that Danse Macabre is Stephen King's worst book. I beg to differ. This is a nonfiction analysis of the horror genre, both fiction and film, and it was really interesting to me. In fact, I photocopied the suggested reading in the back of the book and worked my way through the lists - it took about five years. I'm sure it's out of date, and that many of the titles he suggests are even har ...more
Okay. It's difficult to really review a book about the state of horror as a genre when that book was first written back in 1981. With that said, my real issues with the book are not really the book's outdatedness. My big issue is that the book doesn't really seem to make a point and support it. It's more like getting high with one of your favorite writers and then just sitting and listening to him talk.

Some things that crossed my mind as I read this book:

1) It's actually kind of cool to hear St
Mike (the Paladin)
Probably my favorite King book. It gives a lot of insight into Mr. King himself as well as into what he thinks about the writing.

Let me update and expand on this a little. I found (back when I read it) that it gave me a lot of insight (at least I think it did) into Mr. King. (Of course he may be chuckling at that and saying..."so you think. You have fallen into my trap"...just a thought). With biographical sketches, stories from life and tales of his own writing experience it's well worth the fr
Ben Loory
a really fun book even though it doesn't tell you anything new about horror. i mean unless you've never thought about horror at all. king is just such a great storyteller, it's all the side-tracks and footnotes and tossed-off stuff which makes the book so interesting.

also i need to read some davis grubb. gerald kersh. and james herbert.

and i really need to finally see dementia-13. why haven't i seen that. major failing

Stephen King gives us an insight into the world of horror, science fiction film and essential reading. I love nearly all his fiction work and his non-fiction novel On Writing was such a great insider view on his writing world. This one is more ramblings and at times became annoying yes he writes good stories but hearing one too many rambles on his view of film and fiction might not really be that captivating for other readers also. He mentions the three important horror classics the vampire, the ...more
Stefan Yates
This book length essay on the horror genre turned out to be much more entertaining than I expected. Even when writing a nonfiction genre-study, King cannot avoid being King. His goofy sense of humor, absolute frankness, and the occasional crass comment made me feel more like I was having a beer with the guy and discussing books than sitting in a lecture hall. King fans who want to hear where he gets his inspirations from and what authors/films he has taken enjoyment from will get a lot out of th ...more
Reviewed First at Brunner's Bookshelf

I really had no idea what to think of this book at first. I want to read every book from Stephen king so this was on my list. The reason I read this recently is for the simple reason that out of all the books I wanted to read this was the only one available at the library when I needed a book. I have always wondered what movies King thinks are worth watching in the horror genre and what his favorite novels are so I was anxious to see what he had to say. At th
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a history buff. I love the history of just about anything that I don't already know. "Just bring it on" is my motto. So when I read Shock Value a few weeks ago and it recommended Stephen King's Danse Macabre, of course I needed to pick it up.

What is particularly interesting about this book is it's original release date--30 years ago. What this means is that King delved deep into history prior to 1981 in this book, and it was a deep history indeed. I appreciate
P. Aaron Potter
True Story from a Life in Books:
While working on my Master's degree at the University of Virginia, I took a class on fin de siecle literature. Naturally, one evening, talk turned to the eruption of the gothic mode at the end of the 19th century. As we discussed whether or not Oscar Wilde's fantasies could be considered properly "gothic," I posited that the difference between, say, Wilde's Salome and a true 'gothic' like Castle of Otranto was the locus of the horror. "Stephen King makes a distinc
Joe  Noir
Reading, and especially choosing what to read, has always been very mood and impulse driven for me. I may wake up tomorrow with a craving for Rex Stout, but I may wake up the next day jonesing for Harlan Ellison. The weather, how well I feel, and the music they are playing in the book store may all play a part when I look over and spot your novel. A glimpse of Paul Newman as Harper may send me straight to Ross MacDonald. An image of George Segal may send me to the Quiller novels of Adam Hall. A ...more
Nicola Mansfield
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 ha ...more
This book downright annoyed me and I decided to just stop. It's kind of strange to think someone who is one of the masters of horror could seem so non-analytical about the genre itself. He puts a lot of emphasis and attention to schlocky B-movie horror from the 50s and very little appreciation for some of the finer horror out there. I'm not sure how someone can excoriate Kubrick's version of The Shining and yet be OK with The Hitcher. His take on why The Exorcist was scary was that with the Mans ...more
One day I will find the perfect examination of the horror genre, but this certainly ain't it.

While I sympathize fully with King's distaste for the academic tradition of ripping the beating heart out of a work in a desperate search for its "meaning," a little additional rigour wouldn't have gone amiss here. The author's examination of horror, which he smartly confines to the years 1950 through 1980, is discursive to the point of rambling, and even his best points (horror being a form of optimism
(D)oes anyone have the slightest doubt about what would happen if we were suddenly changed to a height of seven inches tall by malign magic and yon kitty curled up by the fire woke up and happened to see us skittering across the floor? Cats, those amoral gunslingers of the animal world, are maybe the scariest mammals going. I wouldn't want to be up against one in a situation like that.

To enter the world of horror fiction is to venture, small as a hobbit, through certain mountain passes
Based on the writing style alone, Danse Macabre would easily merit a 4 star rating. 2012 marks a decade since I read my first Stephen King book, and in-between I have read almost everything he has published to date; and I have always been struck by how conversational and somehow intimate the introductions and author's notes to his books feel, even the ones that were written many years ago (and in some cases, before I was born). Basically, Danse Macabre is one of those author's notes extended to ...more
Tom Nittoli
Who better to review a thirty year span of horror films, books, comics, and television than the master of horror himself, Stephen King? His knowledge, and passion alone suffice the prerequisites for the task nonetheless the amount of research and edits he went through to ensure it's accuracy have made this book a fantastic adventure.

After reading his two devout chapters on the horror film; where it started, where it's going, how it got to where it is now, I couldn't help, but wonder why I hadn't
King's a great writer -- as always -- who fills his book with lots of amusing anecdotes. Typical of his work, it starts strong and sort of fizzles out towards the end. Or maybe that's a general fault of survey-style works? It's only loosely focused and starts to feel repetitive after awhile.

Danse Macabre surveys horror film, novels, television, and radio up to 1980, when it was originally written. The strongest segments are about the movies. King loves high art gothic horror as well as the lowe
A meandering book that, despite its length, only manages to scratch the surface of the fantasy/horror genre (though, to his credit, King warns the reader early on that the book will wander and only touch on certain aspects of the genre -- hence the dance implied by the title). Most of the arguments King explores are by no means groundbreaking and will be familiar to anyone who has studied speculative fiction; however, I found his Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy an intriguing and more colorful ver ...more
Deborah Blair
Mar 17, 2013 Deborah Blair rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Horror Genre Buffs who also love the History of Literature
Recommended to Deborah by: The New York Times Review of Literaure
If you are a reader of horror, are interested and fascinated by the history of literature - this is a book for you.

From age nine on when my brother Jim and I discovered the old, black and white Horror films staring Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Legosi and others AND the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Brahms Stoker's Dracula, Robert Louis Steven's Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde and others. In the sixties there were a huge amount of Monster and Horror film magazines that we
Shannon Drake
A young Stephen King holding forth on horror is a good read--and to its credit, if you need a backgrounder on horror from 1950-1980, there may be better places to start, but I doubt they're as readable--but Danse Macabre suffers chiefly from its age. Reading King fulminating about how terrible the writing for television is is downright comedic in the age when TV is providing some of our most compelling drama. Likewise, one desperately wants to know what he makes of his later career (he has so m ...more
I feel like this book doesn’t get a fair shake from most people. I think people expect something more scholarly (read: bullshitty) and focused. Basically we’re invited to an extremely lengthy lecture by Mr. King about the genre he works in. It isn’t the best book about horror, that might be Skal’s Monster Show, but it’s still really informative and interesting. I’ve read that people think that this is just a bunch of rambling and there is no point, which is half true. He rambles a lot, but he ma ...more
Stephen King has definitely become one of my favorite contemporary authors in the last year. I've devoured and LOVED two of his non-fiction books as well, this being one of them. Basically his own personal retrospective of the highlights of the horror genre in literature, film and television between 1950 and 1980 (the year the book was published), as well as the familiar archetypes of the horror genre and an armchair psychology lesson in fear: what makes something scary, and why are people drawn ...more
Brian Wilson
The book begins with this story: on October 4, 1957, Stephen King 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."

And thus began Mr. King's journey into science fiction and horror. This is a grea
It’s very rambling at times and I’m still not sure if I like Stephen King the person as much as I like him as a writer (the jury’s still out on the writing, even, as I’m still in his 80s work and yet to read anything quite so great as Carrie… which he seems embarrassed by…) or if it was just the reader of the audiobook (William Dufris) who makes King’s frequent headstrong, cocksure attitude come across as plain arrogant and patronising. There’s also the fact that the book is so old - maybe if I’ ...more
I love Stephen King. I’m just going to get that out of the way as soon as possible. I love his stories and I think he is a clever guy. Anyone who could think up “IT or Salem’s Lot” is a genius in my opinion. Also he wrote “The Shining” which was the basis for the excellent Stanley Kubrick movie. (Interesting fact; Jack Nicholson improvised the famous “Here’s Johnny” line and actually had to cut down the door. He was one of the few actors that Stanley Kubrick actually let improves on his films.)

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Stephen King Fans: Danse Macabre 30 134 Jan 31, 2012 12:07PM  
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Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, M ...more
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“We fall from womb to tomb, from one blackness and toward another, remembering little of the one and knowing nothing of the other ... except through faith.” 42 likes
“we need ghost stories because we, in fact, are the ghosts.” 19 likes
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