Danse Macabre (book)

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Danse Macabre (1981) is a nonfiction book by Stephen King on horror fiction and United States pop culture.

Quotes[edit]

  • The good horror tale will dance its way to the center of your life and find the secret door to the room you believed no one but you knew of—as both Albert Camus and Billy Joel have pointed out, The Stranger makes us nervous... but we love to try on his face in secret.
    • p. 18
  • Terror...often arises from a pervasive sense of disestablishment; that things are in the unmaking.
    • p. 22
  • I recognize terror as the finest emotion (used to almost quintessential effect in Robert Wise's film The Haunting, where, as in The Monkey's Paw, we are never allowed to see what is behind the door), and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud.
    • p. 37
  • We may only feel really comfortable with horror as long as we can see the zipper running up the monster's back, when we understand that we are not playing for keepsies.
    • p. 45
  • Monstrosity fascinates us because it appeals to the conservative Republican in a three-piece suit who resides within all of us. We love and need the concept of monstrosity because it is a reaffirmation of the order we all crave as human beings...and let me further suggest that it is not the physical or mental aberration in itself which horrifies us, but rather the lack of order which these aberrations seem to imply.
    • p. 50
  • ...but talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work and study; a constant process of honing. Talent is a dull knife that will cut nothing unless it is wielded with great force...
    • p. 92
  • Talent is a dull knife that will cut nothing unless it is wielded with great force.
    • p. 92
  • It may be that nothing in the world is so hard to comprehend as a terror whose time has come and gone - which may be why parents can scold their children for their fear of the boogeyman, when as children themselves they had to cope with exactly the same fears (and the same sympathetic but uncomprehending parents). That may be why one generation's nightmare becomes the next generation's sociology, and even those who have walked through the fire have trouble remembering exactly what those burning coals felt like.
    • p. 158
  • If we are all insane, then all insanity becomes a matter of degree. If your insanity leads you to carve up women like Jack the Ripper or the Cleveland Torso Murderer, we clap you away in the funny farm (except neither of those two amateur-night surgeons were ever caught, heh-heh-heh); if, on the other hand, your insanity leads you only to talk to yourself when you're under stress or to pick your nose on your morning bus, then you are left alone to go about your business...although it's doubtful that you will ever be invited to the best parties.
    • p. 174
  • ...the best horror films, like the best fairy tales, manage to be reactionary, anarchistic, and revolutionary all at the same time.
    • p. 175
  • The purpose of horror fiction is not only to explore taboo lands but to confirm our own good feelings about the status quo by showing us extravagant visions of what the alternative might be.
    • p. 268
  • The danse macabre is a waltz with death. This is a truth we cannot afford to shy away from. Like the rides in the amusement park which mimic violent death, the tale of horror is a chance to examine what's going on behind doors which we usually keep double-locked. Yet the human imagination is not content with locked doors. Somewhere there is another dancing partner, the imagination whispers in the night - a partner in a rotting ball gown, a partner with empty eyesockets, green mold growing on her elbow-length gloves, maggots squirming in the thin remains of her hair. To hold such a creature in our arms? Who, you ask me, would be so mad? Well...?
    • p. 366
  • Perhaps we go to the forbidden door or window willingly because we understand that a time comes when we must go whether we want to or not...and not just to look, but to be pushed through. Forever.
    • p. 367
  • 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.

External links[edit]

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