New Jersey Life

Over the weekend, it was called to my attention that last Tuesday marked my second anniversary as a Magazine Rack columnist. I didn't take the news especially well, locking myself in the bathroom for the next 32 hours and sobbing in the tub as I pondered my stagnant professional development.

After a lengthy dialogue with the nice man from the clinic, I emerged from the bathtub resolute, if a bit wrinkled. It was time to get back to the essence of what makes this column occasionally semi-readable, and it was time to rediscover my inner ying-yang-mojo-essence. For me, that meant reconnecting with my New Jersey roots.

I'm Jer-Z to the core, though probably not in a way that would endear me to the folks behind the upscale New Jersey Life. They say "contemporary Mediterranean cuisine," I say "chili dog." They say "pricey houses," I say "chili dog." Et cetera. After cranking "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" and perusing pix from last summer's Great Adventure day trip, I returned to my mag lab (a.k.a. the couch) with a renewed sense of mission.

New Jersey Life does just fine when it stays within the state's borders. It chooses slightly-off-the-beaten-track subjects for its profiles (an indie film maker, an artist commissioned to paint Beatles portraits for Liverpool's Hard Day's Night hotel) and ably, if glibly, surveys the state's high-end real estate. The "Rustic Revival" architecture/design spread dotes on the history of the featured property (a neato barn-like dealie), while the reviews of Jersey eateries boast considerably more bite than those typically showcased in high-end regional mags.

The "State of Bliss" spa blurbs also deserve special mention, if only because New Jersey Life seems actually to have sent reporters out to experience 'em for themselves, rather than relying on flat press materials. Unfortunately, the publication fumbles away this credibility with a quartet of items that have no place in a magazine with "New Jersey" on its cover.

I can't imagine anyone will have much of a problem with the "Gourmet Getaway" piece on dining in Italy, but I can't think of a single persuasive reason for its inclusion here (cue the "if you live in Jer-Z, you're probably always looking for a way out" retorts). The same criticism holds for the "Mind + Body + Spirit" story on big-name diets, the guide to port wines and the "Goods" compilation of travel accessories. Why here? Why now?

Those aren't the only questionable decisions in the March issue. The "Luxuries" page of diamond pendants sits right next to an ad for diamond pendants; the two spreads are virtually indistinguishable. The quality of the writing also varies wildly from one story to the next. Most of its reviews boast a bit of 'tude, yet the visit with intermittently-Jersey-based Allure editor Linda Wells ends with the following editorial bouquet: "You'd think her free time was spent in the beauty chair, but she prefers downtime with her family in her modern weekend home in Bedminster." Well, at least there's a Jersey connection.

And as much as I enjoyed the romp through Ridgewood -- a frequent Friday-night destination during high school, owing to its movie theater and senile liquor-store cashiers -- I don't know what its writer was attempting to get at with her "a good book, like a good man, is hard to find" pronouncement. The English major in me likes to think that she's giving a subtle nod to Flannery O'Connor; the mediocre-magazine reviewer in me isn't so sure.

In the end, I really don't have a lot to say about New Jersey Life. It mostly delivers what it promises and does so in a manner that is thoroughly professional. You'd like a mag to spur a bit more in the way of enthusiasm -- if not a mad dash to the mailbox, then at least a half-smile at its arrival -- but this'll do, I suppose.

Published by: Olsten Publishing
Frequency: seven issues per year
Advertising information
Web site

Next story loading loading..