New Age Journal

My first encounter with New Age Journal was in 1980 while working for a weekly newspaper in Boston, my first job out of college. I had arranged an interview with Allen Ginsberg, who was in Cambridge for a poetry reading at the Passim coffeehouse with Gregory Corso. They were staying at the home of photographer Elsa Dorfman on a side street in Cambridgeport, and when I showed up there at the appointed time with my tape recorder, ready to talk, Ginsberg was otherwise occupied. A small group of hip-looking folks were sitting around the living room with him, deeply engaged in conversation. They were asking questions way more interesting than the ones I’d scribbled in my notebook. I sat off to the side and waited for them to finish, making a mental note to pick up a copy of the magazine these people worked for.

Eight years later, after having sporadically subscribed to New Age for much of the decade, I spotted a newspaper help wanted ad the magazine had placed to find a part-time copy editor. I went for it. Counterintuitively, I wore a suit and tie to my interview rather than a paisley tunic. I still landed the job.

Within my first week, I was being asked to help out with feature editing in the absence of the associate editor, who suddenly had decided to leave the staff. It was my serendipitous in. I remained a staff editor, sometimes part time, sometimes full time, until well into the ’90s. And even after leaving the editing job, I continued to write for the magazine, which eventually would be reincarnated as Body + Soul, then Whole Living. During one stretch I was the regular music columnist. At another point I even interviewed for the job of editor in chief, but was edged out by the candidate who, I was told, promised to drive the circ over a million. The numbers never got anywhere close, but the empty promise sounded good to the publisher at the time. And it was just as well, because the mag became increasingly homogenized over the years, eventually morphing into soulless Martha Stewart drivel and then folding altogether.

Anyway, I wrote a lot of features for New Age Journal/Body + Soul, but I couldn’t find many of them online. The piece of mine that received the most notice — I was invited onto NPR’s Talk of the Nation to talk about it, then uncerimoniously uninvited when they discovered I wasn’t going to twist the truth to fit their thesis — was about a weekend I spent in a Texas football stadium with thousands of Born Again men who were members of the evangelical group the Promise Keepers. That piece was reprinted in abridged form by Utne Reader, which includes the story on its website. The only other New Age Journal clip I could find online was my 1995 profile of mystic country singer Jimmie Dale Gilmore, which is archived on Jimmie’s site. Check it out:

Musician and Mystic: Jimmie Dale Gilmore sings of a spiritual journey.

One Response to “New Age Journal”

  1. Laura August 13, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    Hi Jeff, I was an editorial intern at New Age in the early 90’s and, while I’m certain you don’t remember me, I have a very specific memory of your reworking some tiny thing I’d spent over an hour writing in about a minute and a half and making it more than twice as good. I learned a great deal in those 90 seconds, and I thank you. Your piece here is the only thing I could find online on the New Age Journal. Which is strange, but again, I thank you!

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