THE NEW AGE is a collection of a number of columns and essays that Gardner has written over the years, and while it is almost impossible to maintain the highest degree of excellence over some thirty odd pieces, Gardner does a marvelous job. Many of the piece in this collection--especially those dealing with New Ageism, fundamentalism, or individuals operating on the edge of the Occult--would get a 10, while others could receive a rating as low as 5.
What I most appreciate about Gardner is the balanced perspective he brings to his subjects. Unlike many sceptics, Gardner does not succumb to universal and indiscriminate debunking. There are those who are not able to comprehend the difference between being a religous believer, for instance, and espousing Creationism and fundamentalism. Gardner understands the distinction perfectly, however, and never engages in ad hoc attacks on religion when his real target is an irrational right-wing religion. In this I find his work to be much more convincing than such sceptics as Michael Shermer and a bulk of the writers publishing on Prometheus Books. One of the best examples of Gardner's balance is his obvious liking for Shirley MacLaine despite his abhorence of many of her inane preoccupations. So, although there is an inevitable unevenness to the quality of the essays in the book, they overall stand at a very high level.
Gardner reprints many letters written to him in response to the original printing of many of the articles, and I would like to take an opportunity to quibble on one small point, though on something that he mentions several times. In writing of pentecostals, he mentions that they believe that when one is baptised in the Holy Spirit, one gift of the spirit is the ability to speak in "The Unknown Tongue." In my contact with Pentecostals, the stress has been on "other tongues," many of which are known, and some of which are not. There is no one such "unknown tongue." Some pentecostals like to recount anecdotes of supposedly uneducated people speaking in Latin, French, or German even though they have never learned the languages. A small point, but I think it is important to realize that the emphasis with many charismatics is in speaking not "the unknown tongue," but in other tongues than their own.