Thanks for all the questions about the Garden & Gun magazine now currently residing in a busted window of the kitchen. You all got me thinking about that magazine, which got me to thinking about Southernness, and why it is that I feel the need to revisit the never-ending conundrum of how I can stand living in a region that so often drives me wild with frustration and irritation. I love the South! I despise it!
A recent magazine debate crystallizes the puzzle of the South, and it involves that very magazine stuck in my window.
Garden & Gun is considered very hot these days. It’s pretty much Esquire magazine, Southern style. There’s a lot on Southern food, and long features on the 50 Best Southern Bars, and loving explorations of guys who make $700 boots by hand. It could not be glossier. None more glossy. Gardens feature only in the most tangential way, but they’ll run on about guns and turkey hunts in the Georgia scrub. I couldn’t care less about hunting and fishing, but I do like the way they report on cool things going on down here. And Nashville is always in the mix, so that suits my boosterish side.
There are detractors, however, most recently the editor of another magazine that has probably a deeper interest in the complexities of the South, not in its luxuries. Seriously hating on G&G is Marc Smirnoff, longtime editor of The Oxford American. Here’s his hot hot hot smackdown of Garden & Gun.
As somebody who thinks about the nature of the South a LOT, I tend to agree with him. His point: G&G purports to represent the South today, but in the rush to make readers feel good about their region, G&G ignores many of the unglossy issues that define the region: politics, religion, and especially, race. It’s easier for us privileged white folk to avoid unpleasantnesses, he suggests, but it’s not good.
I subscribe to The Oxford American as well as Garden & Gun, and I think you can triangulate with them to get a prismatic view of the South. However, I wouldn’t consider using The Oxford American to fix a busted window, so I guess that’s a measure of something.
Of course, these two magazines aren’t actually the starkest view into the deep issues of the South. For that, I turn to The Contributor, the street paper that is sold now all over town on street corners by homeless people. The stories I find in there are another level of gritty. It makes OA and G&G look first world indeed.
As for the conundrum of why I live in the South? It’s not something that I can resolve. I grew up here. It’s a mess. But the other places I’ve lived have been a mess, too. I like looking at dreamy photos of peeling-paint barns and still lifes of pulled pork sandwiches. But in a place like the South, it’s crucial to think hard about why it sometimes feels terrible to live here.
Just got a field report from a reader of BOWLING AVENUE:
“I finished reading Bowling Avenue on the beach today and loved it! Someone had to take the very difficult job of seeing if the book could work as a beach read and I’m happy to report that it does.”
This was no small achievement seeing as how she had a box of loose pages.
Photographic proof of BOWLING AVENUE being read directly upon a beach:
A very exciting delivery:
A batch of BOWLING AVENUE proofs. (No, that’s not the final cover.) I’d love to send one to someone to do further field testing. If you’re game to read the thing and report back on how it holds up under your exotic reading conditions, please leave a comment, and I’ll randomly draw a name. Deadline is Friday the 9th, 9 am CDT.