Garden & Gun

Admittedly, the title grabs you. It's not one you'll usually find on my nightstand. I'm more of a New Yorker devotee. And for my money, the best way to catch up on current events is The Week, a slick digest that keeps me, as my college-application promised, well-rounded. Alas, in an age of cheap sensationalism and raving DJs, we look for escape.

Do we find it in Garden & Gun? If you're a lover of Southern gentility -- or Scarlett O'Hara -- the answer, unequivocally, is yes.

Now, my knowledge of the South is largely confined to its literature, which is exceptional, its bourbon, which is single-barrel, and its civil-rights protests, which were bloody. However, this is the 21st century, and much has changed in the land of Dixie. According to its Web site, at the mag's heart is "a love for the outdoors -- upland bird hunting, gardening, fishing, sailing, equestrian sports and conservation." Throw in a nod to Southern art and music, architecture and food, and readers get what's billed as "the best" of the contemporary South.

In short, the edit/ad targets are skeet-shooting, well-heeled Southerners. The demo is 55% men, 45% women, with an average household income of $100K and a median age of 42. If G&G were around in, say 1860, it would grace the drawing room of Tara. Though whether Ashley Wilkes or John Grisham would consider the South, per the editor's note, running from the Mississippi River east to the Atlantic and from the Virginias to Venezuela is anybody's guess. Hugo Chavez doesn't spell bluegrass and cotillion charm to me.

Based in Charleston, the pub, named for a 1970s city dance club, is the brainchild of John Wilson, editor-in-chief, one of the founders of Charleston magazine, and Rebecca Darwin, a former publisher of The New Yorker. Most of the premiere issue's writers and photogs are Southern, too, including Clyde Edgerton, whose first novel, Raney, was a winner.

I'm a fan of celebrating cultural traditions and roots, which is why G&G is an education for Northerners and a soon-to-be hit with upper-crust Southerners. Where else can you find an 11-page article on Thomas Jefferson's Monticello? This Renaissance man's talents -- architect, vintner, writer of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the University of Virginia -- put current politicians to shame. The story opens prior to his future triumphs; in shaping Monticello, we see, at heart, the shaping of a man.

Also, it's the first time a Table of Contents sports an image of a cute blonde aiming a bow and arrow in my face. She could put my eye out! Happily, the photo on page 23 favors the theatrical, rather than the confrontational. A woman bathed in lilac garb is held aloft -- one-handed, no less -- by a man in a tight-fitting gray suit. The story concerns the Kentucky Derby, but the pose is pure "La Cage Aux Folles."

On the funky side, there is Asheville, N.C., slugged a "New Age city as welcoming to high rollers as it is to hippies." It boasts everything from vegan bars to the Lord's Gym, where a mural of Jesus presides over the treadmills. Apparently, the answer to the question -- What would Jesus do? -- is pump it! Now that sounds like the New South to me. One quibble: The piece lists Asheville as the birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not! The Great Gatsby author was born in St. Paul, Minn., in 1896; his wife, Zelda, hailed from Montgomery, Ala. While she is one of the more colorful Southerners of the early 20th century, F. Scott is a Yankee through and through. However, Thomas Wolfe was an Asheville son; though judging from the oversight, you can't go home again.

A second quibble is the cover. Pat Conroy, of Prince of Tides fame, is a gifted author. He writes beautiful prose. But as the cover subject, the 21st-century South looks suspiciously like the antebellum period -- with Dockers. Still, this is an elegantly art-directed magazine, and the outdoors coverage -- be it fly-fishing or turkey hunting -- hits its readership where they live. Lowcountry or Upcountry, city or small town, Garden & Gun fulfills its edict: leisurely profiling the sporting life, while celebrating the artists in its midst. Pass the bourbon and branch.

Published by: Evening Post Publishing Co.
Frequency: 10 issues/year
Web site

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