Remember my snarly post about the new magazine curiously named Garden&Gun? Sure, you do. You all joined in the derision. It was fun! Then I got angry comments. Turns out I’m denigrating my heritage with my small mind. Though in my defense, I only took up the mockfest after the Garden Writers Listserv bunch had had their way with the new magazine. And as I say, most of the commenters joined in the merriment and one even read the website and concluded it made her "barf – so elitist. Pee uuu."
THE TARGET AUDIENCE
So here’s an update, first on the elitism. Oh, boy is it elitist, and deliberately so, thankyouverymuch. It targets the rich subscribers who are pursued by top-dollar advertisers like, I don’t know, Mercedes or BMW. (I’m such a lackluster consumer I can hardly think of examples.) So yes, the verbiage on the website is elitist because it has to convince these advertisers to pay outrageous rates. (And thanks to one commenter from the publishing world for pointing that out to us.)
But what about the magazine, for crissake?! Well, I happen to have it in my very own hands, and not because the free first issue I signed up for has arrived yet. (Ever? We’ll see.) No, a friend loaned me a copy her fisherman husband bought and wow – it screams high-class, but mostly in a good way. (Unlike those society magazines with page after page of rich, skinny women in evening clothes. Talk about the barf factor.)
But this serious magazine deserves a serious review.
Now I’ve read all about the original Garden&Gun, the ’70s dance club in Charleston that the creators of this magazine liked so much they thought it would be cool to revive the name. Reportedly all sorts of races and sexual orientations mixed it up on its dance floor and I appreciate that, you bet. But here’s the rub: it’s only a cool magazine name for the select few who’ve ever heard of the damn club. And not so cool to the targeted readers in the toniest zip codes across the South and in the metro NY and DC areas (according to their website), to whom the title is a big "What the F**K??" Or fodder for jokes. Not to mention a disappointment to people looking for either gun or garden content because guess what – it’s not about either guns or gardens.
INSIDE THE COVER
Okay, let’s get past the title (and I hope this magazine CAN.) Just look at the cover – Pat Conroy! And inside I find not just his article but others by Clyde Edgerton and Reynolds Price and I’m just enough of a reader to be impressed, big-time. There are also pieces about the Nature Conservancy, fishing, a LEED-certified home in Atlanta, a Virginia winery, the funkier side of Ashville, and an 11-page spread about Jefferson’s Monticello. So maybe the magazine is what the editor hopes it’ll be: "The best of the 21st Century American South." It’s off to a great start.
This article in Media Post begins with the obvious: "Admittedly, the title grabs you," but goes on to shovel high praise on the first edition, calling it a "soon-to-be hit with upper crust Southerners" and concluding with "Pass the bourbon and branch." Cute. Interestingly, the reviewer is a "big fan of celebrating cultural traditions and roots" but has a quibble with 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."
Well, I’ve got news for the Media Post writer – that’s how Pat Conroy dresses. And one look at Tom Wolfe reminds us that the antebellum look is far from dead. I say that as someone who left the South for more progressive waters but held onto her preppy look for dear life. And about those traditions and roots? Whenever I listen to the Bluegrass Junction channel on XM Radio – and that’s daily – I remember my Virginia daddy playing "Swing low, sweet chariot" on the guitar and, unfortunately, singing it.