A Tale of the Kalem Club
I believe you are acquainted with the basic facts of the Kalem Club, a group of Lovecraft’s bachelor pals, most of whose last names began with the letters K (Kleiner), L (Lovecraft, Long), or M (Moe). They used to meet in one or another’s apartment in Brooklyn for gabfests during Lovecraft’s New York Exile. Oh to have been there! But there is a next best thing.
In the mid-eighties I used to gather, one Saturday a month, at the Strand Bookstore in New York City with a few fellow fans of HPL and the Weird Tales writers. We would prowl the bookshops and have lunch at the Silver Spurs (great burgers!) and talk over various editing and publishing projects. Great friends, great fun! I had recently become acquainted with the great Lin Carter (wotta character!) through a book I was writing on him (Lin Carter: A Look behind his Imaginary Worlds). He decided to join us one Saturday and invited us back to his apartment to continue the salon. Lin christened the group The New Kalem Club and sent out announcements. Just sitting around in that wonderland would have been enough to dazzle us. He had some years earlier moved out of his Hollis, Queens, house (pretty much kicked out by his girlfriend’s drug-dealing thug pals) and crammed as much as he could of his astonishing collection of weird art originals, posters, rare books, and relics into a small East Side apartment. “Their house is a museum when people come to see ‘em.” (You could almost overlook the pungent litter box odor that permeated the place.)
The group included S.T. Joshi, Peter Cannon, Steve Mariconda, Marc Cerasini, Chuck Hoffman, Eileen McNamara, Carolyn Boyd, Donna Death, a couple of Crowleyites whose names I now forget, and occasionally Frank Belknap Long, who would, incredibly, shamble across town for the meetings. I made a point of not quizzing the venerable and nearly spectral Long about his old friend Lovecraft because I felt he deserved respect and interest in his own significant body of work. Some years later, one of the very highest points of my ministerial career (now thankfully over) was to give the eulogy at his graveside. I always felt that Frank’s presence at our gatherings forged a link with the past and legitimatized our calling ourselves the New Kalem Club.
Well, I moved to North Carolina to take up a teaching post, and I’m sorry to say that the group kind of fell apart without me. But I moved back to the NY metropolitan area five years later and took up where we had left off, except that Lin had died in the meantime. And the New Kalems had evolved. ST, Peter, Steve, Miroslav Lipinski, often joined by T.E.D. Klein, took to meeting for supper and drinks at a pub in Manhattan. I just could not make it into the City but a couple of times, and so I started a branch office. The Third Kalem Club began as the second one had, with a trip to the Strand and the Silver Spurs, but then we would retire to my home in New Jersey. The merry crew was now comprised of Joe Pulver, Rod Heather, Brian McNaughton (at least a couple of times), Michael Cisco, Tom Brown, Mike Fantina, and sometimes C.J. Henderson (though I soon found it was dangerous to get him and Pulver, both alpha bulls, together in the same room!). My daughter Victoria soon became a full member, too. We would read new stories or poems to each other, show off new art, etc. It was great! But great things come to an end (have you noticed that?). Carol, Victoria, Veronica, and I returned to North Carolina in 2001. Kalems kaput!
Down here I rejoice every time I can snag Mark Rainey, Stephen Stiles, and Joe Pulver for a get-together, but since Joe moved to Germany, that’s kind of put a crimp in the schedule! So these days I content myself with the occasional Lovecraft Film Festival, NecronomiCon, and Mythos Con, where I see so many of the old gang. Maybe I’ll see you there! In the meantime, why not organize your own local Kalem Clubs? Go ahead! You have my permission.
Robert M. Price is an American theologian and writer. He teaches philosophy and religion at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, is professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute, and the author of a number of books on theology and the historicity of Jesus, including Deconstructing Jesus (2000), The Reason Driven Life (2006), Jesus is Dead (2007), Inerrant the Wind: The Evangelical Crisis in Biblical Authority (2009), The Case Against the Case for Christ (2010), and The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul (2012).
A former Baptist minister, he was the editor of the Journal of Higher Criticism from 1994 until it ceased publication in 2003, and has written extensively about the Cthulhu Mythos, a “shared universe” created by the writer H. P. Lovecraft.
If you enjoyed this article, let Bob know by commenting below — and please use the Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus buttons below to spread the word.